Tuesday Reads: Shirley Temple, The “Hillary Papers,” And The Endless NSA StoryPosted: February 11, 2014 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, Republican politics, U.S. Politics | Tags: Bill Clinton, Cryptome.org, Diane Blair, drones, Edward Snowden, First Look, Glenn Greenwald, Hillary Clinton, Jeremy Scahill, metadata, Monica Lewinsky, NSA, Pierre Omidyar, Shirley Temple, signals intelligence, terrorists, The Hillary Papers, The Intercept | 32 Comments
The top news story on Google this morning was the death of 1930s child star Shirley Temple at age 85. Later in life, she served the U.S. as an ambassador and was active in Republican politics.
Shirley Temple Black, who lifted America’s spirits as a bright-eyed, dimpled child movie star during the Great Depression and later became a U.S. diplomat, died late on Monday evening at the age of 85, her family said in a statement.
Temple Black, who lured millions to the movies in the 1930s, “peacefully passed away” at her Woodside, Calif., home from natural causes at 10:57 p.m. local time (0157 ET), surrounded by her family and caregivers, the statement said on Tuesday….
As actress Shirley Temple, she was precocious, bouncy and adorable with a head of curly hair, tap-dancing through songs like “On The Good Ship Lollipop.” As Ambassador Shirley Temple Black, she was soft-spoken and earnest in postings in Czechoslovakia and Ghana, out to disprove concerns that her previous career made her a diplomatic lightweight.
“I have no trouble being taken seriously as a woman and a diplomat here,” Black said after her appointment as U.S. ambassador to Ghana in 1974. “My only problems have been with Americans who, in the beginning, refused to believe I had grown up since my movies.”
BBC News on Temple’s storied career as a child star:
Born in 1928, Temple soon became a major star after getting her first film role at the age of three.
Her singing, dancing and acting won over fans worldwide. She was given a special juvenile Oscar in 1935, when she was just six years old. To this day, she is still the youngest person to receive an Academy Award.
With the nickname “America’s little darling”, she was ranked as Hollywood’s biggest draw for four years running from 1935 to ’38 in an annual poll of US cinema owners.
Her rendition of the song On the Good Ship Lollipop in the film Bright Eyes was among her most famous performances.
Her other films included Curly Top, The Littlest Rebel, Baby Take a Bow and Little Miss Marker.
She was such a hit that US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt dubbed her “Little Miss Miracle” for raising morale during the Great Depression and she was credited with helping save 20th Century Fox from bankruptcy.
Temple starred in a total of 43 feature films – but found it difficult to sustain her career in adulthood and left acting behind in 1950.
Bloomberg Businessweek on Temple-Black’s later life:
Temple’s box-office appeal waned as she grew into adulthood, and she made her last movie in 1949. Her second marriage, to businessman Charles Black, lasted almost 55 years until his death in 2005. They raised two children, plus a daughter from Temple’s brief first marriage.
As Shirley Temple Black, the onetime star became active in Republican Party politics in the 1960s and served in diplomatic posts under four presidents.
“I had an enchanted childhood, a magic childhood, with great memories,” Black told reporters in 1978, when she turned 50. “But I don’t want to live in the past and I don’t live in the past.”
In other news, attacks on Hillary Clinton are ramping up, and so far they are truly bizarre. Republicans are still obsessed with Bill Clinton’s sexual fling with White House intern Monica Lewinsky. Why that is supposed to be relevant to Hillary Clinton’s political career, I will never understand. The latest nastiness is about the so-called “Hillary Papers,” which I knew nothing about until this morning. It turns out these papers aren’t Hillary’s, but those of some friend of the Clinton’s named Diane Blair. I’ve never heard of her.
The papers — a collection of Blair’s diary-like accounts of conversations, campaign memos and the like — are a sometimes wrenching trip via the wayback machine, as she recounts the Clintons’ arduous transition from Arkansas to Washington. In the most quotable comment, Hillary Clinton is said to have called Lewinsky a “narcissistic loony toon” whose relationship with Bill Clinton resulted from a moral lapse on his part, albeit one driven by the pressures facing the couple in the capital.
The papers also reflect, time after time, Hillary Clinton’s frustration with politics and her view that, while she adopted her husband’s name to stave off criticism in Arkansas, she was not about to change her personality to suit the Washington establishment, the press or, for that matter, voters.
“I gave up my name, got contact lenses, but I’m not going to try to be somebody that I’m not,” Blair quotes Clinton as saying.
That tension has been a recurring theme of the Clintons’ political lives. In the 1992 presidential contest, campaign aides placed much emphasis on humanizing Hillary, or at least forwarding a public version of the human being her friends, including Blair, testified to. Blair’s papers included a confidential campaign memo that said voters believed Hillary Clinton was smart but just couldn’t fully connect with her. (Among other things, as was reported during the campaign, many voters were unaware that the Clintons had a daughter, the then-teenage Chelsea, and thus didn’t see Hillary as particularly motherly.)
She got little credit for the things people liked about the Clintons, and more of the blame for the things they disliked.
“What voters find slick in Bill Clinton, they find ruthless in Hillary,” the memo said.
I still don’t see how this is relevant to Hillary’s political career. Calling Lewinsky “a narcissistic looney-tune?” Why is that a problem? Oh, and she’s “ruthless,” although there’s no evidence for that is offered. Here’s the article in the right wing Washington Free Beacon that started the latest attacks, The Hillary Papers: Archive of ‘closest friend’ paints portrait of ruthless First Lady. It’s long, and frankly only skimmed it. If this garbage is what Republicans are going to focus on in opposing Hillary, I don’t think it’s going to work. Check out more heavy breathing over the “Hillary papers” at CNN and Politico.
The endless NSA leaks story continues onward. According to the latest tally by Cryptome.org, at the current rate, it will take 42 more years for all of the Snowden documents to be released. So far Greenwald and crew have reported on only about 1.8% of the documents Snowden is believed to have stolen.
Yesterday Glenn Greenwald and the gang debuted their new website, “The Intercept,” backed by a $50 million dollar investment by Ebay and Paypal billionaire Pierre Omidyar. For now the site will be entirely focused on the Snowden leaks as well as leaks from other sources who come forward and offer information on methods U.S. uses to gather intelligence. Judging by the first article posted by Greenwald, Jeremy Scahill, and Laura Poitras, which focuses on the NSA’s role in Obama’s drone program, the articles will be aimed at using melodramatic language to inflict maximum damage to the U.S. government’s intelligence agencies, while providing little information that hasn’t been already reported elsewhere.
I assume the substance of the drone article was written by Scahill, who wrote a book, Dirty Wars, that included a great deal of information on the drone program. But you can see Greenwald’s hand in the slanted way in which the story is presented. For example, the first paragraph:
The National Security Agency is using complex analysis of electronic surveillance, rather than human intelligence, as the primary method to locate targets for lethal drone strikes – an unreliable tactic that results in the deaths of innocent or unidentified people.
No evidence is offered to show that human intelligence isn’t used or that drone strikes are “unreliable” or that they kill more civilians than bombs or missiles, and no documents from the Snowden cache are included. Interestingly, the authors do not specifically argue against killing suspected terrorists; they only claim that drones are not the best method. They also present the opinions of two sources who worked in the drone program without any evidence to show that their statements are accurate.
A few more reactions…
Lloyd Grove at The Daily Beast: Welcome to Glenn Greenwald, Inc.? Grove wonders if Greenwald is the best “public face” for a serious news site.
Investigative reporter and columnist Glenn Greenwald was barely five minutes into his appearance Sunday on CNN’s Reliable Sources—an interview promoting the long-awaited online launch of First Look Media, eBay billionaire Pierre Omidyar’s ambitious digital journalism startup—before he called the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee a liar.
“He’s not only lying—and he is lying—but he knows that he’s lying,” Greenwald said about Republican Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, who suggested last week that journalists who’ve disseminated classified documents leaked by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden might be guilty of “fencing stolen material.”
“This is what Mike Rogers is notorious for in Washington,” Greenwald went on, “just making things up and smearing political opponents and journalists he doesn’t like.”
The retort was a familiar-sounding one for the 46-year-old Greenwald, a former trial lawyer who tends to treat policy disagreements as blood feuds and is never reluctant to question motives and fling rather personal insults.
Here’s a pointed critique from Ohtarzie, a writer who has long argued that Greenwald and Poitras are hoarding the Snowden documents, dribbling them out slowly in an effort to get maximum attention and income while providing little new information.
If there is anything new here, it’s in the large extent to which the NSA is said to rely on cell phones for identifying and tracking targets for the CIA, which allegedly leads to increases in wrongly identified targets and civilian deaths. This differs somewhat from Gellman’s account, which described a more varied, conceivably more precise approach, using an “arsenal of cyber-espionage tools, secretly seizing control of laptops, siphoning audio files and other messages, and tracking radio transmissions.” Despite the differences, if there is something revelatory in the Intercept’s story from a technical standpoint, I’m missing it. Tracking by cell phone has been discussed before, includingby Snowden. In light of signature strikes, the apparent recklessness of these methods also seems unsurprising.
Gellman’s story was rightly criticized for being effectively a dick-waving exercise for the U.S. Intelligence apparatus, since it detailed simply how a Bad Guy was killed by the Good Guys with all their sexy technology and savvy. In keeping with their adversarial brand, Scahill and Greenwald mix the NatSec dickwaving with some handwringing over civilians, most of which is provided via quotes from former drone operator and ostensible whistleblower, Brandon Bryant. This passage gives a taste of the overall dickwavey/handwringy mix.
The former JSOC drone operator is adamant that the technology has been responsible for taking out terrorists and networks of people facilitating improvised explosive device attacks against U.S. forces in Afghanistan. But he also states that innocent people have “absolutely” been killed as a result of the NSA’s increasing reliance on the surveillance tactic.
Near the end of the lengthy piece, Bryant even wrings his hands over the assassination program as a whole, at least as it results in the extrajudicial executions of American citizens like Anwar Al Awlaki. But overwhelmingly, both his emphasis and the emphasis of the piece are simply on the need to kill more precisely, by making greater use of informants and agents on the ground to supplement the NSA’s signal intelligence.
Ryan Goodman asks why Greenwald and Scahill repeatedly describe the use of metadata to target terrorists with drone strikes, but they provide few examples of actual metadata being used in the program. Where’s the “Metadata”?: What Greenwald and Scahill (Don’t) Say about NSA Metadata Collection and Lethal Targeting. Read all about it at the link.
Finally, the second scoop at The Intercept yesterday was a series of what they call “exclusive” photographs of the “surveillance state,” but a number of writers noted that these same photos can be found on the NSA website and by Googling. Here’s Bob Cesca:
Glenn Greenwald’s new website, The Intercept, launched today and….the first news article at the Pierre Omidyar-funded site, titled “New Photos of the NSA and Other Top Intelligence Agencies Revealed for First Time,” was utterly bizarre.
It was literally nothing more than three aerial photographs of the National Security Agency’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland; the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) in Chantilly, Virginia; and the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) in Springfield, Virginia.
That’s all. It’s treated like a major scoop and appeared as the first big revelation on the site, prior to a separate article by Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill.
I’m out of space, so I’ll add a few more links in the comment thread. I hope you’ll do the same. What stories are you focusing on today?
Thursday Reads: Snowzilla and Other NewsPosted: January 2, 2014 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Akademic Shokalskiy, clemency, distress signal, Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Keystone XL pipeline, metadata, Minneapolis fire, National Transportation an Safety Board, North Dakota train derailment, Russian FSB, Snowzilla, Sochi Winger Olympics, surveillance by Russia, winter weather | 44 Comments
This post is late because I had a computer emergency this morning. Fortunately I got it resolved after a struggle, but I was on the verge of panic for a bit. I hate computer problems.
The first big winter storm of 2014 has begun. Here in Greater Boston, we have a couple of inches on the ground. We were supposed to get heavy snow last night, and now they’re saying it will come tonight instead. We’re supposed to get light snow through out the day and we have blizzard warnings in effect for tonight with about a foot of snow expected by tomorrow. We’ll see . . . the weather people haven’t been that accurate so far this winter. But it’s a huge storm that will affect people across the Midwest, the Mid-Atlantic states and New England.
Reuters reports: Powerful storm bears down on U.S. Northeast with Arctic temps.
The double-barreled storm system stretching from the lower Mississippi Valley to the Atlantic coast could dump more than 12 inches of snow in some areas, especially southern New England, by Friday morning, the National Weather Service said.
“Heavy snow, strong winds, frigid temperatures and dangerous wind chills are in forecast for much of the region,” it said in a statement.
The storm is expected to snarl traffic on the I-95 highway corridor between New York and Boston, the weather service said. At the southern edge of the storm, Washington is expected to receive less than one inch of snow.
The powerful storm forced about 1,000 U.S. flights to be canceled and about 250 delayed, with the worst-affected airport Chicago’s O’Hare International, according to FlightAware, a website which tracks air travel.
NPR has a summary of the weather situation, with links: 100 Million People In Path Of 2014’s First Wintry Blast.
In the Arctic, the passengers on that stranded ship have finally been rescued. NBC News:
All 52 passengers who were stranded aboard an ice-locked ship in Antarctica for more than a week were rescued by helicopter early Thursday, officials said.
The Akademic Shokalskiy sent out a distress call on Christmas morning after it became surrounded by sea ice while on a scientific mission more than 1,700 miles south of Australia.
On Thursday, a helicopter from a Chinese ice-breaking ship Xue Long — or Snow Dragon — transported groups from a makeshift helipad which the passengers had stomped out in the ice near the ship.
The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) tweeted at 6.20 a.m. ET Thursday that all of the 52 passengers had been airlifted from the Akademik Shokalskiy and were now on board the Aurora Australis ice-breaker.
Photos and video at the link.
Yesterday an explosion started a fire in a Minneapolis building where many Somalis lived. The building was next door to a mosque. I hope this doesn’t turn out to be arson. From The Columbus Dispatch: 14 hurt in blast, fire in Minneapolis building.
MINNEAPOLIS — A billowing fire engulfed a three-story building with 10 apartments near downtown Minneapolis yesterday, sending more than a dozen people to hospitals with injuries — some critical — ranging from burns to trauma associated with falls.
An explosion was reported about 8:15 a.m., and within minutes, a fire raged through the building, said Robert Ball, a spokesman for Hennepin County Emergency Medical Services. Paramedics, responding amid sub-zero temperatures, found victims on the ground, some with injuries that suggested they might have fallen several stories.
“It’s not clear whether people were pushed out of the building from the explosion, or whether they fell or jumped out of windows to escape,” Ball said.
No fatalities have been reported, but authorities weren’t sure whether any residents still were in the building. Its roof had partially collapsed, making it too dangerous for firefighters to search the premises, said Assistant Minneapolis Fire Chief Cherie Penn.
There were reports of family members saying three people living in the apartment were not in the hospital and cannot be accounted for.
According to an update from CBS Minnesota, Investigators Search For Cause Of Massive Minneapolis Fire, three people are still reported missing.
The Minneapolis Fire Chief said even though many will be wanting to know the cause of this fire immediately, it may take a little bit to figure out what happened.
“You’re going to have to have some patience with us, it’s going to take law enforcement and arson investigators some time. It’s going to be a very difficult investigation. We’re going to determine the cause and origin, so it’s going to take us some time,” said Chief John Fruetel.
We know firefighters inspected the building in 2012 and issued a clean bill with no problems. The focus now is figuring out who the victims are. Fruetel said there is some confusion as to who was in the building or lived there. He said they’ve got some work to do figuring out who lived in the building, who may have had visitors, who were home and who were not home.
Officers are meeting with families to gather information, and several people don’t speak English so they need interpreters.
In addition to apartments, the building contained a store on the ground floor that was used as a “community center.”
Residents of Casselton, North Dakota were allowed to return to their homes, and the investigation into the causes of the derailment of a train carrying crude oil began yesterday. CNN reports that investigators were able to get closer to the wreckage yesterday, but they had already been examining video of the crash.
…[I]nformation taken from recording devices has been revealing, said National Transportation and Safety Board spokesman Robert L. Sumwalt.
A video camera at the head of the oil train recorded the crash as it slammed into a car of a derailed grain train.
“We looked at the last 20 seconds of the forward facing video from the oil train. And basically it shows the collision sequence,” Sumwalt said.
When the oil train arrived, the other train transporting grain and soy bean had already derailed, and one of its cars was lying in the oil train’s path, he said.
The oil train slammed into it and burst into flames.
Much more info at CNN and this NBC News link. This crash should raise serious questions about the Keystone XL project, according to Insurance Journal:
The derailment and fire that led to the evacuation of a North Dakota town has renewed the debate over whether it’s safer to ship oil by rail or pipeline as the U.S. completes a review of the Keystone XL project.
“Any time there is an incident, you have heightened talk and scrutiny on oil transportation,” Brigham McCown, a former director of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, said yesterday in an interview. “It will add to the conversation.” [….]
While climate change has been the focus of the fight over TransCanada Corp.’s proposed Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to the U.S. Gulf Coast, a subset in the debate has been the relative safety of pipes versus trains. The U.S. State Department, reviewing the $5.4 billion project because it would cross the U.S. border, is weighing whether the pipeline would be in the national interest.
Keystone would allow about 100,000 barrels a day of crude from the Bakken formation in Montana and North Dakota onto the pipeline through a link in Baker, Montana.
“Bakken oil is going to come under increasing scrutiny,” as a result of the rail explosion, said Robert Schulz, a professor at the University of Calgary’s Haskayne School of Business. “You may see additional thoughts of, ‘Let’s approve Keystone because it’s going to be safer.’”
The North Dakota accident is the fourth major North American derailment in six months by trains transporting crude. Record volumes of oil are moving by rail as production from North Dakota and Texas have pushed U.S. output to the most since 1988 and pipeline capacity has failed to keep up.
There has been quite a bit of Edward Snowden news over the past few days. I’m not a huge fan of the WaPo’s Ruth Marcus, but I couldn’t help agreeing with her column yesterday: Edward Snowden, the insufferable whistleblower.
Time has not deflated Edward Snowden’s messianic sense of self-importance. Nor has living in an actual police state given the National Security Agency (NSA) whistleblower any greater appreciation of the actual freedoms that Americans enjoy.
Insufferable is the first adjective evoked by Snowden’s recent interview with Barton Gellman in The Post, but it has numerous cousins: smug, self-righteous, egotistical, disingenuous, megalomaniacal, overwrought.
The Snowden of Gellman’s interview is seized with infuriating certitude about the righteousness of his cause. Not for Snowden any anxiety about the implications for national security of his theft of government secrets, any regrets about his violations of a duty of secrecy.
“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished. I already won,” Snowden proclaimed. “Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”
And what gave Snowden the right to assume that responsibility? “That whole question — who elected you? — inverts the model. They elected me. The overseers,” he said. “The system failed comprehensively, and each level of oversight, each level of responsibility that should have addressed this, abdicated their responsibility.”
As you can well imagine, the column outraged Snowden’s primary promoter Glenn Greenwald. Marcus is now on his shit-list, and will remain there in perpetuity, because only Glenn is permitted to be that nasty to people who disagree with him. Greenwald is thrilled with The New York Times a the moment, however; because the editorial board called yesterday for President Obama to grant Edward Snowden clemency (as did Greenwald’s former employer The Guardian). I can’t imagine why Obama would do that, since it would set a dangerous precedent for dealing with future thefts of classified information.
Some reactions to two major newspapers calling for Snowden to be allowed to come home and not be prosecuted:
Susan Milligan at US News and World Report: No Clemency for Snowden.
Damien Thompson at The Telegraph: Let Edward ‘Pleased-With-Himself’ Snowden argue his case in an American courtroom.
The Hill: Former Obama official agrees with call for Snowden clemency.
Meanwhile, in Snowden’s adopted country, the FSB has been collecting unprecedented amounts of metadata on Olympic athletes and every foreign and domestic visitor to the Sochi winter games.
As the date for the Olympic Games in Sochi draws closer, Russia’s siloviki are becoming more active in terms of collecting data from Russians and foreigners. Although they can at least partially justify their decision to register every Russian who comes to Sochi during the Olympics with the desire to prevent terrorist attacks, the decree that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev signed Nov. 8 has no relationship whatsoever to that goal.
That decree expressly authorizes the government to collect data on telephone calls and Internet contacts made by the Olympic Games’ organizers, athletes and foreign journalists.
Irina Borogan and I have already published an article in The Guardian in October explaining how the authorities had installed an advanced wiretapping and surveillance system in Sochi, but Medvedev’s order adds significant scope to those activities.
The decree provides for the creation of a database for the users of all types of communication, including Internet services at public Wi-Fi locations “in a volume equal to the volume of information contained in the Olympic and Paralympic identity and accreditation cards.” That is, the database will contain not only each subscriber’s full name, but also detailed information guaranteed to establish his identity. What’s more, the database will contain “data on payments for communications services rendered, including connections, traffic and subscriber payments.”
That is called “gathering metadata” in the language of intelligence agencies.
So far no objections to this surveillance have been registered by Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, Julian Assange, or any other member of Wikileaks. I wonder why?
So . . . what stories are you following today? Let us know in the comment thread, and have a great day!
Thursday Reads: NSA Panel Report, Reactions, and Snowden UpdatePosted: December 19, 2013 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, U.S. Politics | Tags: Bob Cesca, Edward Snowden, Elaine de Kooning, Glenn Greenwald, John Schindler, metadata, NSA, Sweden, The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, Vladimir Putin | 24 Comments
Yesterday, The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies, appointed by President Obama in August to recommend changes in U.S. intelligence collection, released its report. David Sanger and Charlie Savage of The New York Times report: Obama Is Urged to Sharply Curb N.S.A. Data Mining.
The panel recommended changes in the way the agency collects the telephone data of Americans, spies on foreign leaders and prepares for cyberattacks abroad.
But the most significant recommendation of the panel of five intelligence and legal experts was that Mr. Obama restructure a program in which the N.S.A. systematically collects logs of all American phone calls — so-called metadata — and a small group of agency officials have the power to authorize the search of an individual’s telephone contacts. Instead, the panel said, the data should remain in the hands of telecommunications companies or a private consortium, and a court order should be necessary each time analysts want to access the information of any individual “for queries and data mining.”
The experts briefed Mr. Obama on Wednesday on their 46 recommendations, and a senior administration official said Mr. Obama was “open to many” of the changes, though he has already rejected one that called for separate leaders for the N.S.A. and its Pentagon cousin, the United States Cyber Command.
The five-member advisory board consisted of:
Richard A. Clarke, a cyberexpert and former national security official under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush…,Michael J. Morell, a former deputy director of the C.I.A.; Cass Sunstein, a Harvard Law School professor who ran the office of Information and Regulatory Affairs in the Obama White House; Peter Swire, a privacy law specialist at the Georgia Institute of Technology; and Geoffrey R. Stone, a constitutional law specialist at the University of Chicago Law School, where Mr. Obama once taught.
Mr. Obama is expected to take the report to Hawaii on his vacation that starts this week and announce decisions when he returns in early January. Some of the report’s proposals could be ordered by Mr. Obama alone, while others would require legislation from Congress, including changes to how judges are appointed to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
Some of the recommendations, as summarized by USA Today are as follows:
The NSA should cease keeping a massive phone record database that includes nearly every phone call made and received in the USA.
Tougher standards should be created for spying on foreign leaders.
The NSA should be prohibited from asking companies to insert back doors into their software so it can gain access to encrypted communications and networks.
A public interest advocate should be named to represent civil liberties and privacy interests before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court
A civilian should be appointed to be the next director of the NSA.
Leadership of the U.S. military’s Cyber Command and the NSA should be split.
Legislation should be enacted requiring the intelligence community to report regularly to Congress and the American people on business records and metadata collected.
BBC News offered a slightly different list:
The NSA director should be confirmed by the US Senate, with civilians eligible for the role
The president should give “serious consideration” to ensuring the next NSA director is a civilian and separate the position from US Cyber Command, a military unit
Creation of a Public Interest Advocate to argue in favour of privacy and civil liberties interests before the FISC
More transparency at FISC
Halting spy agencies’ efforts to undermine commercial encryption methods
Limits on who can access information gained by the NSA
The president should personally approve all methods used by the intelligence community, including spying on foreign leaders
You can read the full report here (PDF).
I’m sure none of this will actually satisfy the Greenwald-Snowden cult (Charles Pierce summarizes some of their objections), but they are nevertheless crowing about it and claiming this is a “vindication” of Snowden’s stealing of classified information. Read the rest of this entry »
Thursday ReadsPosted: July 25, 2013 | Author: bostonboomer | Filed under: Barack Obama, Foreign Affairs, morning reads, Russia, Spain, U.S. Economy, U.S. Politics | Tags: ACLU, Amash NSA amendment, anti-abortion legislation, Boston Bombings, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, FBI informants, fetus dolls, fetus fetishists, Gitmo, Glenn Greenwald, Guantanamo Bay prison, Ibragim Todashev, James "Whitey" Bulger, Justin Amash, Keith Alexander, macroeconomics, Madrid train bombing, metadata, North Dakota State Fair, NSA, Paul Krugman, Spanish train crash, Tamerlan Tsarnaev | 16 Comments
Yesterday the House narrowly defeated (217-205) an amendment to the defense spending bill (proposed by Michigan Republican Justin Amash) that would have prohibited NSA from collecting metadata on phone calls unless there is evidence that a specific person involved in the call is involved in criminal activity. From Bloomberg:
Implementation of the amendment could have created a new burden on telephone and Internet companies to retain bulk data, in addition to ending the NSA’s blanket collection of phone records. Those possibilities led the White House, Republicans leaders and many congressional Democrats to oppose the proposals, pitting them against lawmakers from both parties who champion civil liberties and privacy….
The provision would have had the potential to cause headaches for information technology companies.
“It could be a significant burden depending on how the government wants us to keep this data and store it,” Trey Hodgkins, a senior vice president for TechAmerica, a Washington-based trade group that represents Verizon Communications Inc. (VZ), AT&T Inc. (T) andCenturyLink Inc. (CTL), said in a phone interview. “You’re talking about potentially extremely huge data sets.”
It’s important to note that the bill as passed also includes a provision that prevents the closing of Guantanamo and prohibits the President from transferring any of the detainees who are being held there. So a vote for the Amash amendment would also mean voting to keep Gitmo open indefinitely.
Another amendment to limit NSA data collection did pass:
The House also adopted an amendment written by Republican Richard Nugent of Florida that sought to prohibit the NSA from using funds in the almost $600 billion Pentagon spending measure to “acquire, monitor or store the content” of electronic communications by “a United States person.”
The Nugent amendment was viewed by some lawmakers as providing political cover for those who didn’t want to vote for Amash’s amendment. While lawmakers voting for the Nugent amendment might appear to be curbing the NSA’s powers, in actuality the amendment wouldn’t change anything, simply restates current law and is “a fig leaf”, said Representative Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat.
The bill now goes to the Senate; who knows what will happen next. I hope there will be an open debate on regulating possible abuses that could arise from NSA data collection. If a serious debate takes place, perhaps something positive will eventually come from the Snowden debacle. I’m skeptical, but still hopeful.
USA Today presents arguments from Keith Alexander against completely “blowing up” the NSA’s data collection program.
Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, has said the collection of data has helped disrupt dozens of terrorist plots. Investigators are not allowed to comb through the data, but can use it when they have identified a foreign suspect through other intelligence collection.
The data allows investigators to then detect networks the suspect may have been tied into, which could lead to other suspects and the uncovering of secret cells.
“The court restricts what we can do with that data,” Alexander said in a recent speech. “We have to show some reasonable, articulable suspicion that the phone number that we’re going to look at is associated with al-Qaeda or another terrorist group.”
Personally, I’d rather see more carefully defined limits on when and how NSA can use the metadata to target specific American citizens and regulations to prevent lower level employees like Edward Snowden from getting access to personal information rather than an overall prohibition on having the data available when needed for an investigation. Whenever there is a “terrorist” event–as in the Boston Marathon bombings, people demand to know why the government didn’t prevent it. The fact is there are already regulations in place that limit NSA from targeting Americans. IMHO, we should improve those rules if necessary, based on a serious and thorough debate.
Here are Glenn Greenwald’s reactions to the vote in case you want to read another of his inaccurate, rabid screeds. Basically, Greenwald says it’s all the Democrats’ fault–especially that horrible, dreadful war criminal Barack Obama, who is roughly equivalent to Peter King and Michele Bachmann.
Further down in the article, poor Glenn has to admit that a majority of House Democrats supported the Amash amendment in the face of nasty mean old Obama saying he would like to have a nuanced discussion of the issues rather than simply shutting down the counterterrorism program entirely. Greenwald also continues to claim, falsely, that NSA collects and analyzes the phone calls of every American, in the face of calmer, more knowledgeable people who have tried to explain to him that the data isn’t examined without a warrant and clear suspicion of criminal activity (famous example of how these allowed a criminal to slip through the cracks: Tamerlan Tsarnaev). But we’re not Russia, so we do have some limits on surveillance of American citizens and legal residents like Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev.
You know what I’d like to see targeted for more regulation? The FBI’s use of informants and FBI agents’ apparent ability to get away with murder. From Adrian Walker at The Boston Globe: Ibragim Todashev’s shooting needs explanation.
Ibragim Todashev was mysterious in life, but he has fallen into a void in death.
Todashev was fatally shot during an interrogation by Boston-based FBI agents in Orlando on May 22. The Russia native was being asked about his friendship with Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the presumed mastermind of the Boston Marathon bombing. Unusual as it is for someone to be shot to death during questioning, silence has reigned in its aftermath. The FBI’s few statements have been more confusing than illuminating.
The American Civil Liberties Union of Massachusetts made an attempt Tuesday to spur somebody, anybody, into providing clarity. It called on state authorities in Florida and Massachusetts to conduct their own investigations. The questioning was being done by the FBI and Massachusetts State Police, though some reports have indicated a lone FBI officer was in the room when Todashev was shot.
In response, Attorney General Martha Coakley made it clear her office has no intention of getting involved, pleading lack of jurisdiction. Florida officials have maintained all along that they have no standing to investigate. There doesn’t seem to be any reason to think they are about to change their minds.
Walker notes that we have a stunning example of the FBI’s misbehavior with informants in the James “Whitey” Bulger trial, which is going on in Boston right now.
…we should know better than to rush to absolve the FBI, no questions asked. After all, another of Boston’s great villains, James “Whitey” Bulger, is being tried for decades of terrorizing the city while an FBI informant.
And while the verdict on Whitey is still weeks away, the evidence is clear that the FBI aided and abetted his activities for ages. Not just a rogue agent or two, either; much of the agency’s Boston office was involved.
It’s not comforting, either, to examine the FBI’s record on examining its own shootings. According to a New York Times investigation, the FBI has cleared itself in nearly every agency-involved shooting of the past 20 years.
There was a terrible train crash in Spain yesterday, with at least 78 killed and 130-140 injured. A Spanish official described the scene as “Dante-esque.”
Bodies covered in blankets lay next to the overturned carriages as smoke billowed from the wreckage. Firefighters clambered over the twisted metal trying to get survivors out of the windows, while ambulances and fire engines surrounded the scene.
The government said it was working on the hypothesis the derailment was an accident – although the scene will stir memories of 2004’s Madrid train bombing, carried out by Islamist extremists, that killed 191 people. Sabotage or attack was unlikely to be involved, an official source said….
“It was going so quickly. … It seems that on a curve the train started to twist, and the wagons piled up one on top of the other,” passenger Ricardo Montesco told Cadena Ser radio station.
“A lot of people were squashed on the bottom. We tried to squeeze out of the bottom of the wagons to get out and we realised the train was burning. … I was in the second wagon and there was fire,” he added.
This brief video shows the moment the train derailed and crashed.
According to Railway Gazette, the accident may have been caused by excessive speed.
SPAIN: At 20.41 on July 24 a Madrid – Ferrol Alvia service derailed on a curve on the approach to Santiago de Compostela. Formed of a Class 730 gauge-convertible electro-diesel Talgo trainset, the 15.00 from Madrid was carrying 218 passengers, according to a joint statement from Spanish train operator RENFE and infrastructure manager ADIF.
The train had 12 vehicles, with an electric and a diesel power car at the ends. The rear power cars appear to have caught fire after the impact, and one of the intermediate coaches was thrown up on to an adjacent road; other cars rolled over or struck a retaining wall. Reports on July 25 indicated that 79 people had died in the accident with many more injured.
The train had left the high speed alignment and should have been slowing in preparation for the stop at Santiago station, about 3 to 4 km from the site of the accident. The speed limit on the curve is understood to be 80 km/h, but Spanish media reported that the train driver had said over the train radio that the train had been travelling at 190 km/h. A video taken from a lineside security camera appeared to show coaches behind the front power cars derailing first, pulling the heavier leading vehicles over as the train rounded the curve.
Here’s the crazy Republican story of the day–so far. I suppose the crazy could still get worse as the day goes on. As you know I was born in Fargo, ND, and I still have a soft spot for my home state; but I’m horrified by what’s happening there right now. Check this out: Pro-life group promotes cannibalism, hands out ‘fleshy’ fetus toys in candy bags to kids at State Fair, according to Freak-Out Nation. Yes, you read that right. They put “realistic” fetus dolls into candy bags for children!
Want a squishy toy fetus with your corn dog? If you’re visiting the North Dakota State Fair, you’re in luck! Last weekend, local anti-choice advocates slipped soft fetal models into kids’ candy bags without parental permission during the fair’s gigantic parade. “I don’t know exactly where I stand on abortion,” one mother told Jezebel, “but I believe in my rights as a parent.”
The North Dakota State Fair boasts a bevy of attractions, including performances by Tim McGraw and Creedence Clearwater Revisited. But Minot Right to Life spent the weekend giving away creepy little fetuses to kids without asking parents’ permission first. “It was really disturbing watching children run around with them,” one recalled. A federal judge recently blocked enforcement of the state’s highly unconstitutional six-week abortion ban; perhaps appealing to elementary schoolers’ interests is the group’s Plan B?
“The Precious One” fetal models are manufactured by Heritage House, a “pro-life supply store,” for $1.50 a pop — cheaper if you buy in bulk. “Its beautiful detail, softness and weight can really move hearts and change minds!” the website promises. A customer service representative told Jezebel that the models are most often given to pregnant women at “pregnancy centers” and kids at school presentations. The customer reviews on the site (it’s like Yelp for fetus-lovers instead of foodies) further imply that the doll-like figures are great for kids. “Children especially like to hold them,” one satisfied customer wrote. “No other item that we hand out has the amazing effect that these fetal models have — instant attachment to the unborn!” said another. “So many times, we hear, ‘Awwwww! That’s adorable!’ Or we just see a girl’s tears begin to form and fall.”
Something is very very wrong with these people.
Here’s one for Dakinikat: Paul Krugman explains (following Obama’s speech on the economy yesterday) why there are no “new ideas” about how to fix the financial crisis–because we knew how to do it from day one: Gimme That Old-Time Macroeconomics.
Both Steve Benen and Ed Kilgore get annoyed at fellow journalists complaining that there aren’t any “new ideas” in Obama’s latest. But why should there be?
It was clear early on that this was a crisis very much in the mold of previous financial crises. Once you realized that financial instruments issued by shadow banks — especially repo, overnight loans secured by other assets — were playing essentially the same role as deposits in previous banking crises, it was clear that we already had all the tools we needed to make sense of what was going on. And we also had all the tools we needed to formulate an intelligent policy response — all the tools we needed, that is, except a helpful economics profession and policymakers with a good sense of whose advice to take.
As Mark Thoma memorably remarked, new economic thinking appeared to consist largely of rereading old books. Brad DeLong says that it was all in Walter Bagehot; I think that this is true of the financial crisis of 2008, but that to understand the persistence of the slump we need Irving Fisher from 1933 and John Maynard Keynes from 1936. But anyway, this is not new terrain.
The trouble is Republicans keep right on insisting we should do what Herbert Hoover did in response to The Great Depression. Because that worked so well…