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NASA funding shuffle alarms planetary scientists -- Agency restructuring will postpone a major grants programme for one Scott Guzewich spent six years as a weather forecaster in the US Air Force before switching to his dream career as a planetary scientist. Guzewich now studies the Martian atmosphere as a postdoctoral fellow at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.
But Guzewich’s dream job may be turning into a nightmare. On 3 December, NASA’s planetary science division announced a restructuring of how it funds its various research and analysis programmes. And what sounded like a bureaucratic shuffle touched a raw nerve among US planetary scientists, who already feel singled out in an era of shrinking budgets.
In particular, a newly formed research programme that will cover roughly half of all planetary science proposals will not be calling for new grant submissions in 2014. Researchers who draw the bulk of their salaries from grants will have no place to apply.
“Now I have to basically skip 2014 and submit in 2015,” says Guzewich. “If nothing gets funded in that call, then I guess it’s time for me to go to Walmart.”
Almost all US planetary scientists are funded, at least in part, by NASA’s US$1.2-billion planetary sciences division. Many older and more established researchers get money from individual missions such as the Mars Curiosity rover or the Cassini Saturn probe. Younger scientists, such as Guzewich, must rely more heavily on the roughly $250-million pot known as the research and analysis budget. This is the money designated to scientists exploring the data streaming back from planetary missions. According to a 2010 survey by the Planetary Science Institute in Tucson, Arizona, nearly half of US planetary scientists depend on this programme for more than half of their salaries. (Nature)
For First Time, Americans Favor Legalizing Marijuana -- Support surged 10 percentage points in past year, to 58% For marijuana advocates, the last 12 months have been a period of unprecedented success as Washington and Colorado became the first states to legalize recreational use of marijuana. And now for the first time, a clear majority of Americans (58%) say the drug should be legalized. This is in sharp contrast to the time Gallup first asked the question in 1969, when only 12% favored legalization.
Americans' Views on Legalizing Marijuana
Public support for legalization more than doubled in the 1970s, growing to 28%. It then plateaued during the 1980s and 1990s before inching steadily higher since 2000, reaching 50% in 2011.
A sizable percentage of Americans (38%) this year admitted to having tried the drug, which may be a contributing factor to greater acceptance.
Success at the ballot box in the past year in Colorado and Washington may have increased Americans' tolerance for marijuana legalization. Support for legalization has jumped 10 percentage points since last November and the legal momentum shows no sign of abating. Last week, California's second-highest elected official, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, said that pot should be legal in the Golden State, and advocates of legalization are poised to introduce a statewide referendum in 2014 to legalize the drug.
The Obama administration has also been flexible on the matter. Despite maintaining the government's firm opposition to legalizing marijuana under federal law, in late August Deputy Attorney General James Cole announced the Justice Department would not challenge the legality of Colorado's and Washington's successful referendums, provided that those states maintain strict rules regarding the drug's sale and distribution.
The movement to legalize marijuana mirrors the relatively recent success of the movement to legalize gay marriage, which voters have also approved now in 14 states. Public support for gay marriage, which Americans also overwhelmingly opposed in the past, has increased dramatically, reaching majority support in the last two years. (Gallup)
Horrifying New Drugs! Does New Zealand's New Synthetic Drug Law Offer a Safer Way Forward? Time magazine warns "The World's Most Horrifying Drug May Have Claimed Its First U.S. Victim." The horror of this "new" drug, "krokodil," is that it "eats the skin" of those who use it.
Why would anyone use drugs with all their risks, let alone an untested new drug or a drug that reportedly "eats their skin?" Because the reasons that people use drugs are important to them. People use drugs to get high for various reasons (i.e. to feel good, to forget their troubles, to seek the "truth" or the "divine," for excitement or adventure, or to relieve boredom).They use drugs to ward off "dope sickness" (i.e. prevent withdrawal symptoms). They use drugs to enhance their performance of some task (such as studying, flying an airplane or driving a truck for many hours, or hitting homeruns). And people use drugs to fit in socially (to feel relaxed with strangers or to accommodate peer pressure). However, federal, state and international law recognize "medical use" as the sole legitimate reason one can use a drug (other than tobacco, alcohol and caffeine). These non-medical reasons are compellingly important to the tens of millions of Americans who use drugs knowing that their drug use is against the law and harshly punished. Laws and treaties that limit the legal manufacture of drugs only for medical purposes results in all non-medical drug use being more dangerous because it is unprotected by government or market-based regulation and inspection. Now New Zealand is changing that approach.
The dangerous drug du jour, "krokodil," is a version of desomorphine being made informally in Russia. It is a fast acting narcotic derived from codeine which is extracted from opium poppy. Desomorphine is reported to be 8 to 10 times more potent than morphine. (Huffington Post)
The Real Crisis Is Not The Government Shutdown The inability of the media and politicians to focus on the real issues never ceases to amaze.
The real crisis is not the “debt ceiling crisis.” The government shutdown is merely a result of the Republicans using the debt limit ceiling to attempt to block the implementation of Obamacare. If the shutdown persists and becomes a problem, Obama has enough power under the various “war on terror” rulings to declare a national emergency and raise the debt ceiling by executive order. An executive branch that has the power to inter citizens indefinitely and to murder them without due process of law, can certainly set aside a ceiling on debt that jeopardizes the government.
The real crisis is that jobs offshoring by US corporations has permanently lowered US tax revenues by shifting what would have been consumer income, US GDP, and tax base to China, India, and other countries where wages and the cost of living are relatively low. On the spending side, twelve years of wars have inflated annual expenditures. The consequence is a wide deficit gap between revenues and expenditures.
Under the present circumstances, the deficit is too large to be closed. The Federal Reserve covers the deficit by printing $1,000 billion annually with which to purchase Treasury debt and mortgage-backed financial instruments. The use of the printing press on such a large scale undermines the US dollar’s role as reserve currency, the basis for US power. Raising the debt limit simply allows the real crisis to continue. More money will be printed with which to purchase more new debt issues needed to close the gap between revenues and expenditures. (Paul Craig Roberts)
Jesse Ventura with Piers Morgan : Government Shutdown to JFK Conspiracy [FULL Interview] Jesse Ventura joined Piers Morgan Tuesday night to react to the government shutting down, bashing both the Republicans and Democrats as "gangs" who have effectively legalized bribery in the American legislature. Ventura said the two-party system has to go and party unaffiliated candidates have to start getting elected.
Ventura asked if the government's shut down, "That should mean we shouldn't have to pay any taxes, right?" He called for another American revolution to push back against the "corrupt system" created by Democrats and Republicans in Washington.
He told Morgan the two-party system has legalized "bribery" for access, suggesting he's fed up enough to actually run for president in 2016. Ventura called both parties "gangs," and Morgan admitted he had to agree, adding that they're "overpaid, underworked children!"
As for Obamacare, Ventura didn't have much of an opinion on it, saying he believes in people's rights to health care, pointing out that the country would have more money for health care if it stopped going to war so much. (CNN)
NSA stores metadata of millions of web users for up to a year, secret files show
Vast amounts of data kept in repository codenamed Marina -- Data retained regardless of whether person is NSA target -- Material used to build 'pattern-of-life' profiles of individuals - The National Security Agency is storing the online metadata of millions of internet users for up to a year, regardless of whether or not they are persons of interest to the agency, top secret documents reveal.
Metadata provides a record of almost anything a user does online, from browsing history – such as map searches and websites visited – to account details, email activity, and even some account passwords. This can be used to build a detailed picture of an individual's life.
The Obama administration has repeatedly stated that the NSA keeps only the content of messages and communications of people it is intentionally targeting – but internal documents reveal the agency retains vast amounts of metadata.
An introductory guide to digital network intelligence for NSA field agents, included in documents disclosed by former contractor Edward Snowden, describes the agency's metadata repository, codenamed Marina. Any computer metadata picked up by NSA collection systems is routed to the Marina database, the guide explains. Phone metadata is sent to a separate system.
• What is metadata? Find out with our interactive guide (London Guardian)
NSA Utah Data Center: frequently asked questions -- Intelligence » What happens there, why Utah and the Mormon query. With the opening of the National Security Agency’s Utah Data Center, The Tribune’s staff has compiled a list of common questions and their answers.
• Is someone at the Utah Data Center going to be reviewing my Internet and phone history?
All indications are no. First, we’ll give you the obligatory NSA refrain that it does not spy on Americans. Regardless, the Utah Data Center is a storage facility. Your digital footprint, or part of it, may reside there, but any analysis of whether your search engine queries for rifles or the latest BYU football news represents a national security threat will be done at other federal facilities by personnel who can remotely access the information stored in Bluffdale. The Utah Data Center is expected to have only 200 employees; not enough to sort through the records of the average American.
• How is the NSA going to sort all those records?
That remains to be seen. If the NSA has the name of a potential terrorist, technology is sufficient to find that person’s digital history. The trick is identifying terror suspects based on what they do online or on the phone before they commit a crime or associate with terror suspects and that is where the NSA is waiting for technology and mathematics to catch up. Private contractors have said the NSA has purchased Cray XC30 supercomputers. Industry officials say those machines can run up to 1 million Intel Xenon core processors simultaneously, enabling speeds of up to 100 petaflops. One petaflop is about one thousand trillion calculations per second. But it doesn’t matter how fast you can calculate if you don’t have the right algorithm. The NSA, other government agencies and private-sector scientists are racing to build new data-mining algorithms, drawing on a blend of mathematics, machine learning, artificial intelligence and database theory. In March, President Barack Obama announced a $200 million research initiative across seven federal agencies to advance techniques for data mining. This issue hits on one debate about the NSA and its intelligence-gathering. Critics have said the agency is collecting more data than it can manage and far, far more than can ever be useful. (Salt Lake Tribune)
N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens N.S.A. Gathers Data on Social Connections of U.S. Citizens - Since 2010, the National Security Agency has been exploiting its huge collections of data to create sophisticated graphs of some Americans’ social connections that can identify their associates, their locations at certain times, their traveling companions and other personal information, according to newly disclosed documents and interviews with officials.
The spy agency began allowing the analysis of phone call and e-mail logs in November 2010 to examine Americans’ networks of associations for foreign intelligence purposes after N.S.A. officials lifted restrictions on the practice, according to documents provided by Edward J. Snowden, the former N.S.A. contractor.
The policy shift was intended to help the agency “discover and track” connections between intelligence targets overseas and people in the United States, according to an N.S.A. memorandum from January 2011. The agency was authorized to conduct “large-scale graph analysis on very large sets of communications metadata without having to check foreignness” of every e-mail address, phone number or other identifier, the document said. Because of concerns about infringing on the privacy of American citizens, the computer analysis of such data had previously been permitted only for foreigners.
The agency can augment the communications data with material from public, commercial and other sources, including bank codes, insurance information, Facebook profiles, passenger manifests, voter registration rolls and GPS location information, as well as property records and unspecified tax data, according to the documents. They do not indicate any restrictions on the use of such “enrichment” data, and several former senior Obama administration officials said the agency drew on it for both Americans and foreigners.
N.S.A. officials declined to say how many Americans have been caught up in the effort, including people involved in no wrongdoing. The documents do not describe what has resulted from the scrutiny, which links phone numbers and e-mails in a “contact chain” tied directly or indirectly to a person or organization overseas that is of foreign intelligence interest. (New York Times)
Poll: Americans have negative view of Obama on Syria, Iran As President Obama took to the world stage Tuesday addressing the United Nations General Assembly, a new CBS News/New York Times poll shows that more Americans disapprove than approve of how he is handling Syria, Iran and foreign policy, in general.
More Americans disapprove than approve of how Mr. Obama is handling relations with Iran. The poll was completed in advance of Mr. Obama's speech at the U.N.
As is the case on many issues today, there are sharp partisan splits: most Democrats approve (68 percent), while few Republicans (16 percent) do.
Americans don't foresee relations with Iran improving any time soon. Only 22 percent expect relations to improve in the next few years, while more expect them to stay the same (41 percent) or worsen (32 percent).
Republicans in particular expect things to worsen; Democrats are more positive. (CBS)
IPCC models getting mushy In the next five years, the global warming paradigm may fall apart if the models prove worthless
There has been a lot of talk lately about the upcoming Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report, and whether it will take into account the lack of warming since the 1990s. Everything you need to know about the dilemma the IPCC faces is summed up in one remarkable graph.
IPCCThe above graphic is Figure 1.4 from Chapter 1 of a draft of the Fifth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. The initials at the top represent the First Assessment Report (FAR) in 1990, the Second (SAR) in 1995. Shaded banks show range of predictions from each of the four climate models used for all four reports since 1990. That last report, AR4, was issued in 2007. Model runs after 1992 were tuned to track temporary cooling due to the 1991 Mount Pinatubo eruption in The Philippines. The black squares, show with uncertainty bars, measure the observed average surface temperatures over the same interval. The range of model runs is syndicated by the vertical bars. The light grey area above and below is not part of the model prediction range. The final version of the new IPCC report, AR5, will be issued later this month. (Financial Post)
A Plea for Caution From Russia -- What Putin Has to Say to Americans About Syria RECENT events surrounding Syria have prompted me to speak directly to the American people and their political leaders. It is important to do so at a time of insufficient communication between our societies.
Relations between us have passed through different stages. We stood against each other during the cold war. But we were also allies once, and defeated the Nazis together. The universal international organization — the United Nations — was then established to prevent such devastation from ever happening again.
The United Nations’ founders understood that decisions affecting war and peace should happen only by consensus, and with America’s consent the veto by Security Council permanent members was enshrined in the United Nations Charter. The profound wisdom of this has underpinned the stability of international relations for decades.
No one wants the United Nations to suffer the fate of the League of Nations, which collapsed because it lacked real leverage. This is possible if influential countries bypass the United Nations and take military action without Security Council authorization.
The potential strike by the United States against Syria, despite strong opposition from many countries and major political and religious leaders, including the pope, will result in more innocent victims and escalation, potentially spreading the conflict far beyond Syria’s borders. A strike would increase violence and unleash a new wave of terrorism. It could undermine multilateral efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear problem and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and further destabilize the Middle East and North Africa. It could throw the entire system of international law and order out of balance. (New York Times)
Obama administration had restrictions on NSA reversed in 2011 The Obama administration secretly won permission from a surveillance court in 2011 to reverse restrictions on the National Security Agency’s use of intercepted phone calls and e-mails, permitting the agency to search deliberately for Americans’ communications in its massive databases, according to interviews with government officials and recently declassified material.
In addition, the court extended the length of time that the NSA is allowed to retain intercepted U.S. communications from five years to six years — and more under special circumstances, according to the documents, which include a recently released 2011 opinion by U.S. District Judge John D. Bates, then chief judge of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.
What had not been previously acknowledged is that the court in 2008 imposed an explicit ban — at the government’s request — on those kinds of searches, that officials in 2011 got the court to lift the bar and that the search authority has been used.
Together the permission to search and to keep data longer expanded the NSA’s authority in significant ways without public debate or any specific authority from Congress. The administration’s assurances rely on legalistic definitions of the term “target” that can be at odds with ordinary English usage. The enlarged authority is part of a fundamental shift in the government’s approach to surveillance: collecting first, and protecting Americans’ privacy later. (Washington Post)
Kerry portrait of Syria rebels at odds with intelligence reports Secretary of State John Kerry's public assertions that moderate Syrian opposition groups are growing in influence appear to be at odds with estimates by U.S. and European intelligence sources and nongovernmental experts, who say Islamic extremists remain by far the fiercest and best-organized rebel elements.
At congressional hearings this week, while making the case for President Barack Obama's plan for limited military action in Syria, Kerry asserted that the armed opposition to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad "has increasingly become more defined by its moderation, more defined by the breadth of its membership, and more defined by its adherence to some, you know, democratic process and to an all-inclusive, minority-protecting constitution.
"And the opposition is getting stronger by the day," Kerry told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Ted Cruz: U.S. not 'Al Qaeda's air force' Sen. Ted Cruz called President Barack Obama’s efforts to authorize military intervention in Syria a public relations move, saying the U.S. military shouldn’t be “Al Qaeda’s air force.”
The Texas Republican said Tuesday on TheBlaze that while he’s glad the president listened to calls from him and others to bring the issue to Congress, America shouldn’t get involved and risk helping terrorists in the rebel forces.
“We certainly don’t have a dog in the fight,” Cruz said, calling it a civil war in Syria. “We should be focused on defending the United States of America. That’s why young men and women sign up to join the military, not to, as you know, serve as Al Qaeda’s air force.” (Politico)
Forget the NSA; AT&T Helps DEA Collect even more Phone Call Details As the Edward Snowden controversy has revealed, the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting enormous volumes of data regarding Americans’ communications. But it is another federal agency, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which has managed to access a trove of phone call information that reveals more details to government agents than what the NSA has gathered.
With help from AT&T, the DEA has spent the past six years secretly and routinely accessing the company’s database containing decades of records of Americans’ phone calls, The New York Times reported.
Known as the Hemisphere Project, the government has paid AT&T to place its employees in drug-fighting units around the U.S., helping DEA agents and local police by supplying them with the phone data from as far back as 1987. (AllGov)
The rush to judgment on Syria is a catastrophic and deadly error -- Britain and America show contempt for the lessons of the past in pressing for action It is more than 10 years since Parliament last voted on whether or not to go to war. This was on March 18 2003, when a stirring speech by Tony Blair convinced many sceptical MPs of the case for military action against Iraq.
But Mr Blair’s claim that Britain possessed “extensive, detailed and authoritative” evidence concerning Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction turned out to be nonsense, and we invaded the country on the back of a false prospectus. The consequences were terrible: countless Iraqis were killed in the civil war that followed, along with 179 British soldiers.
The similarities with today’s Commons vote are haunting. The Prime Minister is contemplating an attack on Iraq’s near neighbour Syria, also ruled by a Baathist regime. At the heart of the issue are allegations about weapons of mass destruction. Once again, Britain finds herself in alliance with the United States, and without the authority of the United Nations.
Many of the same voices are cheering us on. Most zealous of all is Tony Blair, while Alastair Campbell, the New Labour propagandist who spread the stories about WMD in Iraq, said yesterday that it would be “irresponsible and incredibly dangerous” not to intervene in Syria. (London Telegraph)
Why Are American Health Care Costs So High? In which John discusses the complicated reasons why the United States spends so much more on health care than any other country in the world, and along the way reveals some surprising information, including that Americans spend more of their tax dollars on public health care than people in Canada, the UK, or Australia. Who's at fault? Insurance companies? Drug companies? Malpractice lawyers? Hospitals? Or is it more complicated than a simple blame game? (Hint: It's that one.)
For a much more thorough examination of health care expenses in America, I recommend this series at The Incidental Economist: http://theincidentaleconomist.com/wor...
The Commonwealth Fund's Study of Health Care Prices in the US: http://www.commonwealthfund.org/~/med...
Some of the stats in this video also come from this New York Times story: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/02/hea...
This is the first part in what will be a periodic series on health care costs and reforms leading up to the introduction of the Affordable Care Act, aka Obamacare, in 2014. (Vlog Brothers)
NSA broke privacy rules thousands of times per year, audit finds The National Security Agency has broken privacy rules or overstepped its legal authority thousands of times each year since Congress granted the agency broad new powers in 2008, according to an internal audit and other top-secret documents.
Most of the infractions involve unauthorized surveillance of Americans or foreign intelligence targets in the United States, both of which are restricted by statute and executive order. They range from significant violations of law to typographical errors that resulted in unintended interception of U.S. e-mails and telephone calls.
The documents, provided earlier this summer to The Washington Post by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, include a level of detail and analysis that is not routinely shared with Congress or the special court that oversees surveillance. In one of the documents, agency personnel are instructed to remove details and substitute more generic language in reports to the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.
In one instance, the NSA decided that it need not report the unintended surveillance of Americans. A notable example in 2008 was the interception of a “large number” of calls placed from Washington when a programming error confused the U.S. area code 202 for 20, the international dialing code for Egypt, according to a “quality assurance” review that was not distributed to the NSA’s oversight staff. (Washington Post)
Taken -- Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes. Is that all we’re losing? On a bright Thursday afternoon in 2007, Jennifer Boatright, a waitress at a Houston bar-and-grill, drove with her two young sons and her boyfriend, Ron Henderson, on U.S. 59 toward Linden, Henderson’s home town, near the Texas-Louisiana border. They made the trip every April, at the first signs of spring, to walk the local wildflower trails and spend time with Henderson’s father. This year, they’d decided to buy a used car in Linden, which had plenty for sale, and so they bundled their cash savings in their car’s center console. Just after dusk, they passed a sign that read “Welcome to Tenaha: A little town with BIG Potential!”
They pulled into a mini-mart for snacks. When they returned to the highway ten minutes later, Boatright, a honey-blond “Texas redneck from Lubbock,” by her own reckoning, and Henderson, who is Latino, noticed something strange. The same police car that their eleven-year-old had admired in the mini-mart parking lot was trailing them. Near the city limits, a tall, bull-shouldered officer named Barry Washington pulled them over.
He asked if Henderson knew that he’d been driving in the left lane for more than half a mile without passing.
No, Henderson replied. He said he’d moved into the left lane so that the police car could make its way onto the highway.
Were there any drugs in the car? When Henderson and Boatright said no, the officer asked if he and his partner could search the car.
The officers found the couple’s cash and a marbled-glass pipe that Boatright said was a gift for her sister-in-law, and escorted them across town to the police station. In a corner there, two tables were heaped with jewelry, DVD players, cell phones, and the like. According to the police report, Boatright and Henderson fit the profile of drug couriers: they were driving from Houston, “a known point for distribution of illegal narcotics,” to Linden, “a known place to receive illegal narcotics.” The report describes their children as possible decoys, meant to distract police as the couple breezed down the road, smoking marijuana. (None was found in the car, although Washington claimed to have smelled it.)
The county’s district attorney, a fifty-seven-year-old woman with feathered Charlie’s Angels hair named Lynda K. Russell, arrived an hour later. Russell, who moonlighted locally as a country singer, told Henderson and Boatright that they had two options. They could face felony charges for “money laundering” and “child endangerment,” in which case they would go to jail and their children would be handed over to foster care. Or they could sign over their cash to the city of Tenaha, and get back on the road. “No criminal charges shall be filed,” a waiver she drafted read, “and our children shall not be turned over to CPS,” or Child Protective Services. (The New Yorker)
Administration says it's serious about privacy, defends NSA programs The Obama administration says it takes privacy criticisms over its surveillance programs seriously while defending them to Congress and the U.S. public.
Obama met Thursday with a bipartisan group of lawmakers -- both critics and supporters -- to discuss surveillance activities of the National Security Agency. Also, NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander was on Capitol Hill to answer House lawmakers' questions in a classified briefing before the August recess, The Hill reported.
"Today's meeting was constructive and the President committed that he and his team would continue to work closely with the Congress on these matters in the weeks and months ahead," the White House said in a statement.
"We will continue to work through the August recess on proposals to improve transparency and strengthen privacy protections to further build the confidence of the American public in our nation's counterterrorism programs," the lawmakers said in a joint statement. (United Press International)
My Life in Circles: Why Metadata is Incredibly Intimate One of the most disingenuous arguments in the aftermath of the NSA spying revelations is that the American people shouldn't be concerned about the government hoovering up its sensitive information because it's only metadata--or a fancy way of saying data about the data.
"This is just metadata," Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein assured the American people, referring to the NSA's bulk collection of Americans call records. "There is no content involved." President Obama and his national security officials have made similar assurances.
Feel better? You shouldn't and here's why.
A tool developed by MIT Media Lab proves how intrusive the collection and analysis of metadata is over time, especially for those who are overly reliant on email as their main method of communication. Dubbed "Immersion," the tool analyzes the metadata--From, To, Cc and Timestamp fields-- from a volunteer's Gmail account and visualizes it. (American Civil Liberties Union)
Snowden's surveillance leaks open way for challenges to programs' constitutionality The recent disclosure of U.S. surveillance methods is providing opponents of classified programs with new openings to challenge their constitutionality, according to civil libertarians and some legal experts.
At least five cases have been filed in federal courts since the government’s widespread collection of telephone and Internet records was revealed last month. The lawsuits primarily target a program that scoops up the telephone records of millions of Americans from U.S. telecommunications companies.
Such cases face formidable obstacles. The government tends to fiercely resist them on national security grounds, and the surveillance is so secret that it’s hard to prove who was targeted. Nearly all of the roughly 70 suits filed after the George W. Bush administration’s warrantless wiretapping was disclosed in 2005 have been dismissed.
But the legal landscape may be shifting, lawyers say, because the revelations by Edward Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor and the principal source of the leaks, forced the government to acknowledge the programs and discuss them. That, they say, could help plaintiffs overcome government arguments that they lack the legal standing to sue or that cases should be thrown out because the programs are state secrets. A federal judge in California last week rejected the government’s argument that an earlier lawsuit over NSA surveillance should be dismissed on secrecy grounds. (Washington Post)
How Microsoft handed the NSA access to encrypted messages
• Secret files show scale of Silicon Valley co-operation on Prism
• Outlook.com encryption unlocked even before official launch
• Skype worked to enable Prism collection of video calls
• Company says it is legally compelled to comply - Microsoft has collaborated closely with US intelligence services to allow users' communications to be intercepted, including helping the National Security Agency to circumvent the company's own encryption, according to top-secret documents obtained by the Guardian.
The files provided by Edward Snowden illustrate the scale of co-operation between Silicon Valley and the intelligence agencies over the last three years. They also shed new light on the workings of the top-secret Prism program, which was disclosed by the Guardian and the Washington Post last month.
The documents show that:
• Microsoft helped the NSA to circumvent its encryption to address concerns that the agency would be unable to intercept web chats on the new Outlook.com portal;
• The agency already had pre-encryption stage access to email on Outlook.com, including Hotmail;
• The company worked with the FBI this year to allow the NSA easier access via Prism to its cloud storage service SkyDrive, which now has more than 250 million users worldwide;
• Microsoft also worked with the FBI's Data Intercept Unit to "understand" potential issues with a feature in Outlook.com that allows users to create email aliases;
• In July last year, nine months after Microsoft bought Skype, the NSA boasted that a new capability had tripled the amount of Skype video calls being collected through Prism;
• Material collected through Prism is routinely shared with the FBI and CIA, with one NSA document describing the program as a "team sport". (London Guardian)
7 Ways The Obama Administration Has Accelerated Police Militarization There were signs that President Barack Obama might rein in the mass militarization of America's police forces after he won the White House. Policing is primarily a local issue, overseen by local authorities. But beginning in the late 1960s with President Richard Nixon, the federal government began instituting policies that gave federal authorities more power to fight the drug trade, and to lure state and local policymakers into the anti-crime agenda of the administration in charge. These policies got a boost during Ronald Reagan's presidency, and then another during President Bill Clinton's years. Under President George W. Bush, all of those anti-drug policies continued, but were supplemented by new war on terrorism endeavors -- yet more efforts to make America's cops look, act and fight like soldiers.
But Obama might have been different. This, after all, was the man who, as a candidate for the U.S. Senate in 2004, declared the war on drugs an utter failure. As Reason magazine's Jacob Sullum wrote in a 2011 critique of Obama's drug policy:
Obama stood apart from hard-line prohibitionists even when he began running for president. In 2007 and 2008, he bemoaned America’s high incarceration rate, warned that the racially disproportionate impact of drug prohibition undermines legal equality, advocated a “public health” approach to drugs emphasizing treatment and training instead of prison, repeatedly indicated that he would take a more tolerant position regarding medical marijuana than George W. Bush, and criticized the Bush administration for twisting science to support policy -- a tendency that is nowhere more blatant than in the government’s arbitrary distinctions among psychoactive substances.
Indeed, in his first interview after taking office, Obama's drug czar, Gil Kerlikowske, said that the administration would be toning down the martial rhetoric that had dominated federal drug policy since the Nixon years. "Regardless of how you try to explain to people it's a 'war on drugs' or a 'war on a product,' people see a war as a war on them," Kerlikowske told The Wall Street Journal. "We're not at war with people in this country."
This was an notable break from previous administrations. Rhetoric does matter, and for a generation in the U.S., cops had incessantly been told that they were in a war with drug offenders -- this, in a country where about half the adult population admits to having smoked marijuana.
Unfortunately, while not insignificant, the change in rhetoric has largely been only that. The Obama administration may no longer call it a "war," but there's no question that the White House is continuing to fight one. Here's a quick rundown of where and how Obama's policies have perpetuated the garrison state: (Huffington Post)
American Mayors: Let Them Smoke Pot It has been more than seven months since voters in Colorado and Washington State chose to legalize marijuana for recreational use, in contravention of federal drug laws. It has been more than three months since Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee that he would announce his department’s response to the new statutes “relatively soon.”
So far: nothing. Mr. Holder has yet to indicate whether he will side with all nine former heads of the Drug Enforcement Administration, who published an open letter urging federal pre-emption.
On Monday, the United States Conference of Mayors passed a resolution suggesting the opposite: that the Obama administration should let the states decide this issue for themselves. “Despite the prohibition of marijuana,” the resolution reads, “and the 22 million marijuana arrests that have occurred in the United States since 1965,” some “42 percent of Americans” have used the drug. (New York Times)
Majority Views NSA Phone Tracking as Acceptable Anti-terror Tactic -- Public Says Investigate Terrorism, Even If It Intrudes on Privacy
Overview A majority of Americans -- 56% -- say the National Security Agency’s (NSA) program tracking the telephone records of millions of Americans is an acceptable way for the government to investigate terrorism, though a substantial minority -- 41% -- say it is unacceptable. And while the public is more evenly divided over the government’s monitoring of email and other online activities to prevent possible terrorism, these views are largely unchanged since 2002, shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
The latest national survey by the Pew Research Center and The Washington Post, conducted June 6-9 among 1,004 adults, finds no indications that last week’s revelations of the government’s collection of phone records and internet data have altered fundamental public views about the tradeoff between investigating possible terrorism and protecting personal privacy.
Currently 62% say it is more important for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy. Just 34% say it is more important for the government not to intrude on personal privacy, even if that limits its ability to investigate possible terrorist threats.
These opinions have changed little since an ABC News/Washington Post survey in January 2006. Currently, there are only modest partisan differences in these opinions: 69% of Democrats say it is more important for the government to investigate terrorist threats, even at the expense of personal privacy, as do 62% of Republicans and 59% of independents. (Pew Research Center)
Michael Hastings Rips Obama Drone Speech Journalist Michael Hastings had very harsh words for President Barack Obama on Saturday morning.
Appearing on MSNBC's "Up with Steve Kornacki," Hastings ripped Obama's recent foreign policy comments, saying the president had bought into the Bush administration's neoconservative worldview.
On Thursday, Obama gave a major national security speech in which he defended the use of drone strikes as a key counterterrorism tool. Hastings said the speech marked a reversal in Obama's thinking.
"If you compare this speech to the speech he gave in Cairo, in 2009 or his Nobel Prize speech, you see almost a total rejection of the civil rights tradition that President Obama supposedly came out of... and just an embrace of total militarism," Hastings said.
"That speech to me was essentially agreeing with President Bush and Vice President Cheney that we're in this neo-conservative paradigm, that we're at war with a jihadist threat that actually is not a nuisance but the most important threat we're facing today," Hastings continued.
You can read the full text of Obama's speech here, and watch a video of Hastings' remarks above. (MSNBC)
Navy SEAL Extortion 17 EXPOSED -- Obama Failures (TrentoVision 5.9.13) May 9, Thursday 10:00 AM, National Press Club, Washington, DC:
Watch these Navy SEAL Team VI families and other family members as they reveal the Obama Administrations culpability in death of their sons in the fatal helicopter crash in Afghanistan following the successful raid on bin Laden's compound. This is a powerful and riveting briefing that included some of America's most significant military leaders. (United West)
World Unites Against the Illuminati: Professor Griff on Fire! Infowars.com presents our groundbreaking interview with rap artist Professor Griff of Public Enemy.
Professor Griff lists Obama's lies, describes why hip hop stars are in the White House and breaks down some of the world's deadliest corporations.
Griff has always been an outspoken voice in the hip hop community and by combining forces with Alex Jones and Infowars, he attempts to break the public's mass-media induced coma. (Prison Planet)
Boston bombing suspect cites U.S. wars as motivation, officials say The 19-year-old suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings has told interrogators that the American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan motivated him and his brother to carry out the attack, according to U.S. officials familiar with the interviews.
From his hospital bed, where he is now listed in fair condition, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has acknowledged his role in planting the explosives near the marathon finish line on April 15, the officials said. The first successful large-scale bombing in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, era, the Boston attack killed three people and wounded more than 250 others.
The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity to describe an ongoing investigation, said Dzhokhar and his older brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, who was killed by police as the two attempted to avoid capture, do not appear to have been directed by a foreign terrorist organization.
Rather, the officials said, the evidence so far suggests they were “self-radicalized” through Internet sites and U.S. actions in the Muslim world. Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has specifically cited the U.S. war in Iraq, which ended in December 2011 with the removal of the last American forces, and the war in Afghanistan, where President Obama plans to end combat operations by the end of 2014.
Obama has made repairing U.S. relations with the Islamic world a foreign policy priority, even as he has expanded drone operations in Pakistan and other countries, which has inflamed Muslim public opinion. (Washington Post)
Police State on Display The Boston Marathon bombing has already demonstrated the best and the worst of America for all the world to see.
First, let’s talk about the best. When the bombs detonated, despite the shock and the horror of the blown-off legs and arms, and the blood on street and sidewalk, and without knowing what else might be coming, ordinary citizens jumped into action to try and help the gravely wounded and the dying. Average people with no experience in this kind of mayhem stepped up without hesitation to care for strangers, applying tourniquets, carrying people who couldn’t walk to hospital tents, or just holding a hand and calling for help.
People pored over their cellphone photo records and camera files, looking for photos that could help identify the killers. Without their volunteer actions, the police and federal agencies would have had no clue who they were looking for. With them, it was quick work pinpointing and identifying the two men who appear to have placed the two bombs.
Later, while police failed to catch one of the brothers suspected of having been a bomber, despite placing all of metropolitan Boston under a kind of martial law, it was a citizen who, after the so-called “lock-down” of the city had been lifted, spotted the suspect and alerted police.
Now for the worst.
Let’s start with the martial law. Okay, it wasn’t a declaration, but with police and the Mayor ordering everyone in Boston and its suburbs to stay inside and lock their doors, “answering only to police,” it was virtually the same thing. (Nation of Change)
Flights are delayed at major East Coast airports as sequester-related furloughs begin After months of inside-the-Beltway drama, the impact of sequestration cutbacks moved to center stage America on Monday as the aviation system was slowed by the furlough of 1,500 air traffic controllers.
With about 10 percent of the controllers who direct 23,000 planes a day scheduled to be off daily until October, both industry and government officials forecast that the effect would snowball as the nation enters peak travel season.
Short on staff and besieged by brisk winds at the three big New York area airports, controllers fell behind by mid-morning Monday and never caught up. The Newark, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy airports reported delays of one to three hours. (Washington Post)
HAGEL EMPHASIZES NEED FOR CLOSE US-ISRAEL TIES U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Tuesday that the U.S. and Israel need to ensure that their alliance remains close, as Mideast security challenges grow more complicated.
"This is a difficult and dangerous time," Hagel said before starting a closed-door meeting with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. "This is a time when friends and allies must remain close, closer than ever."
In his remarks, Netanyahu thanked the Obama administration for deepening ties over the past four years. He said the U.S. and Israel's shared interests and values are especially challenged by "the arming of terrorist groups by Iran with sophisticated weapons, and equally, Iran's attempt to arm itself with nuclear weapons. (Wall Street Journal)
Boston bombers: FBI hunting 12-strong terrorist "sleeper cell" linked to brothers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev ~ Police believe the pair were specially trained to carry out the devastating attack The FBI was last night hunting a 12-strong terrorist “sleeper cell” linked to the Boston marathon bomb brothers.
Police believe Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev were specially trained to carry out the devastating attack.
More than 1,000 FBI operatives were last night working to track down the cell and arrested a man and two women 60 miles from Boston in the hours before Dzhokhar’s dramatic capture after a bloody shootout on Friday.
A source close to the investigation said: “We have no doubt the brothers were not acting alone. The devices used to detonate the two bombs were highly sophisticated and not the kind of thing people learn from Google.
“They were too advanced. Someone gave the brothers the skills and it is now our job to find out just who they were. Agents think the sleeper cell has up to a dozen members and has been waiting several years for their day to come.”
A specialist team of CIA and FBI interrogators was yesterday flown to a Boston hospital to grill wounded Dzhokhar, 19, about the secret group. The University of Massachusetts student was caught on Friday after hiding out in a boat parked in a garden in locked down Watertown the day after a gun battle with police left his 26-year-old brother and a rookie cop dead. (Mirror.co.uk)
Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi, 'Person Of Interest' In Boston Bombing, Still Set To Be Deported On Tuesday An expert on terrorism says the Saudi national who was the original “person of interest” in connection with Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing is going to be deported from the U.S. on Tuesday.
The foreign student from Revere, Mass., is identified as 20-year-old Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi.
“I just learned from my own sources that he is now going to be deported on national security grounds next Tuesday, which is very unusual,” Steve Emerson of the Investigative Project on Terrorism told Sean Hannity of Fox News Wednesday night.
Emerson echoed more details Friday on The Glenn Beck Radio Show, who says there are many more details to this situation and would be revealed on Monday.
The Reuters news agency reported President Barack Obama met with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Saud al-Faisal on Wednesday, noting “the meeting was not on Obama’s public schedule.” (Global Dispatch)
Police, citizens and technology factor into Boston bombing probe Within hours of the Boston Marathon bombing, investigators were already overwhelmed. Bloody clothing, bags, shoes and other evidence from victims and witnesses were piling up. Videos and still images, thousands of them, were beginning to accumulate.
Quickly, the authorities secured a warehouse in Boston’s Seaport district and filled the sprawling space: On half of the vast floor, hundreds of pieces of bloody clothes were laid out to dry so they could be examined for forensic clues or flown to FBI labs at Quantico in Prince William County for testing. In the other half of the room, more than a dozen investigators sifted through hundreds of hours of video, looking for people “doing things that are different from what everybody else is doing,” Boston Police Commissioner Edward Davis said in an interview Saturday.
The work was painstaking and mind-numbing: One agent watched the same segment of video 400 times. The goal was to construct a timeline of images, following possible suspects as they moved along the sidewalks, building a narrative out of a random jumble of pictures from thousands of different phones and cameras.
It took a couple of days, but analysts began to focus on two men in baseball caps who had brought heavy black bags into the crowd near the marathon’s finish line but left without those bags. The decisive moment came on Wednesday afternoon, when Massachusetts Gov. Deval L. Patrick (D) got a call from state police: The investigation had narrowed in on the man who would soon be known as Suspect No. 2, the man whom police captured Friday night bleeding and disoriented on a 22-foot boat in a Watertown driveway.
Patrick said the images of Suspect No. 2 reacting to the first explosion provided “highly incriminating” evidence, “a lot more than the public knows.”
How federal and local investigators sifted through that ocean of evidence and focused their search on two immigrant brothers is a story of advanced technology and old-fashioned citizen cooperation. It is an object lesson in how hard it is to separate the meaningful from the noise in a world awash with information. (Washington Post)
The Tsarnaev brothers were double agents who decoyed US into terror trap The big questions buzzing over Boston Bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev have a single answer: It emerged in the 102 tense hours between the twin Boston Marathon bombings Monday, April 15 – which left three dead, 180 injured and a police officer killed at MIT - and Dzohkhar’s capture Friday, April 19 in Watertown.
The conclusion reached by DEBKAfile’s counterterrorism and intelligence sources is that the brothers were double agents, hired by US and Saudi intelligence to penetrate the Wahhabi jihadist networks which, helped by Saudi financial institutions, had spread across the restive Russian Caucasian.
Instead, the two former Chechens betrayed their mission and went secretly over to the radical Islamist networks.
By this tortuous path, the brothers earned the dubious distinction of being the first terrorist operatives to import al Qaeda terror to the United States through a winding route outside the Middle East – the Caucasus. (Debka File)
Bombing suspect in custody after standoff in Watertown Four days after two deadly explosions turned the finish line of the Boston Marathon into a scene of bloody chaos, the 19-year-old college student believed to be responsible for placing the bombs was taken into custody tonight, bringing a sense of relief and justice to a shaken region.
Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev of Cambridge was pulled from his hiding place in a boat parked behind a house on Franklin Street shortly before 8:45 p.m. in this community just outside Boston.
“We are eternally grateful for the outcome here tonight. We have a suspect in custody,” said Colonel Timothy Alben, commander of the State Police. “We’re so grateful to bring justice and closure to this case.”
“It’s a night where I think we’re all going to rest easy,” Governor Deval Patrick said at a news conference in Watertown. (Boston Globe)
FBI: Help us ID Boston bomb suspects After three days of poring over photos and video, investigators appealed to the public to help them identify two men now considered suspects in the Boston Marathon bombings.
The men were photographed walking down Boylston Street, one behind the other, near the finish line of Monday's race.
Suspect 1 was seen wearing a light-colored, collarless shirt underneath a dark-colored jacket and wearing a dark baseball cap.
The man identified as Suspect 2 was seen setting down a backpack at the site of the second explosion "within minutes" of the blasts that killed three people and wounded nearly 180, said Special Agent Rick DesLauriers, the head of the FBI's Boston office. He was wearing a light-colored hooded sweatshirt, a black jacket and a white baseball cap turned backward. - Other footage, still unreleased, shows that the two suspects stayed at the scene to watch the carnage unfold, a federal law enforcement official with knowledge of the investigation told CNN's Susan Candiotti.
"When the bombs blow up, when most people are running away and victims were lying on the ground, the two suspects walk away pretty casually," said the official, who has seen the unreleased video. "They acted differently than everyone else."
While video of at least one suspect planting the bomb exists, the FBI had chosen not to release it, according to the official. One reason, according to the official, is that were the media to repeatedly show the suspects leaving the bomb, it might cause some people to overreact if they came into contact with them. (CNN)
SAUDI REPORT: MICHELLE O VISITED 'PERSON OF INTEREST' ~ Jeddah newspaper says first lady saw Alharbi in hospital A Saudi Arabian newspaper is reporting that United States First Lady Michelle Obama visited in the hospital Saudi citizen Abdul Rahman Ali Issa Al-Salimi Alharbi, the young man who had been labeled a “person of interest” in the Boston Marathon bombing.
The newspaper accompanied its report with an image of Obama, although the background was generic and it couldn’t be confirmed immediately that she was at the hospital where Alharbi was being treated at the time. He reportedly suffered injuries in the Boston bombing.
The newspaper’s Arabic-language report is being highlighted by Walid Shoebat, a former Muslim Brotherhood member who now is a peace activist.
“Okaz, the same prominent Saudi newspaper that published photos of Abdul Rahman Ali Issa Al-Salimi Alharbi in the hospital after the Boston Marathon bombings, is now reporting that the Saudi national was also visited by the first lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, during his hospital stay,” Shoebat reported. (World Net Daily)
U.S. military to step up presence in Jordan in light of Syria civil war In a critical indication of growing U.S. military involvement in the civil war in Syria, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has ordered the deployment of more American troops to Jordan.
Hagel announced the deployment, which was first reported on CNN, in a statement to the Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday.
He said the troops will work alongside Jordanian forces to "improve readiness and prepare for a number of scenarios."
The troops, which will number up to 200, are from the headquarters of the 1st Armored Division at Fort Bliss, Texas, two Defense Department officials told CNN. (CNN)
CISPA permits police to do warrantless database searches ~ Amendment was shot down that would have required warrants before police could peruse shared information for any evidence of hundreds of different crimes. A controversial data-sharing bill being debated today in the U.S. House of Representatives authorizes federal agencies to conduct warrantless searches of information they obtain from e-mail and Internet providers.
Rep. Alan Grayson, a Florida Democrat, proposed a one-sentence amendment (PDF) that would have required the National Security Agency, the FBI, Homeland Security, and other agencies to secure a "warrant obtained in accordance with the Fourth Amendment" before searching a database for evidence of criminal wrongdoing.
Grayson complained this morning on Twitter that House Republicans "wouldn't even allow debate on requiring a warrant before a search."
CISPA is controversial because it overrules all existing federal and state laws by saying "notwithstanding any other provision of law," including privacy policies and wiretap laws, companies may share cybersecurity-related information "with any other entity, including the federal government." It would not, however, require them to do so.
That language has alarmed dozens of advocacy groups, including the American Library Association, the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Reporters Without Borders, which sent a letter (PDF) to Congress last month opposing CISPA. It says: "CISPA's information-sharing regime allows the transfer of vast amounts of data, including sensitive information like Internet records or the content of e-mails, to any agency in the government." President Obama this week threatened to veto CISPA.
CISPA's advocates say it's needed to encourage companies to share more information with the federal government, and to a lesser extent among themselves, especially in the wake of an increasing number of successful and attempted intrusions. A "Myth v. Fact" paper (PDF) prepared by the House Intelligence committee says any claim that "this legislation creates a wide-ranging government surveillance program" is a myth. (CNet)
Is Obama Covering Up Saudi Role In Boston Bombings? War On Terror: Could it be happening again? Could a Saudi terror cell be behind another major U.S. attack? And could the Saudi government be trying to sink the investigation?
After 9/11, the Saudi ambassador demanded the evacuation of dozens of Saudi nationals, including bin Laden kin, before the FBI could properly question them. He got his wish, even though 15 of the 19 hijackers were Saudis and others had ties to the plot.
Eerily similar high-level intervention is taking place in the Boston bombings case. Consider this timeline:
Jan. 14, 2013: President Obama meets in the Oval Office with Saudi minister of interior.
Jan. 16: Homeland Security Director Janet Napolitano signs "arrangement" with Saudi minister bestowing "trusted traveler" status on Saudi student visitors, shortcutting normal security screening procedures.
April 15: Saudi college student Abdulrahman Ali Alharbi is seen near the Boston marathon finish line with two other Saudis. He's tackled after fleeing the scene of one of the bombings. Authorities question him. (Investors Business Daily)
Investigators Said to Have Video Showing Bomb Suspect Investigators have video of a possible suspect in the Boston Marathon bombings, according to federal law enforcement officials.
The crucial images came from a store security camera near the April 15 bombing site, according to a federal law enforcement official briefed on the matter. Another person familiar with investigators’ work said that, as of early this afternoon, the suspect in the images hadn’t been identified. Both asked for anonymity to discuss the investigation
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and Boston police released statements that no arrest has been made.
“They are making progress,” Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick said in a telephone interview. “Nobody in custody.”
A bomb threat today at the the John Joseph Moakley U.S. Courthouse in Boston forced the postponement of a 5 p.m. news briefing on the investigation. While court employees were later allowed to return, the briefing hadn’t been rescheduled. (Bloomberg)
Fox News: Authorities guarding man at local hospital The deadly bombing at the Boston Marathon that killed at least three and injured 176 is believed to be an act of terrorism, senior White House officials told Fox News.
Two explosions tore through the finish line of the world-famous race just before 3 p.m., going off simultaneously as throngs of onlookers watched runners complete the 26.2-mile trek. The timing of the blasts immediately sparked suspicions of a deliberate act.
"When multiple devices go off, that's an act of terrorism," a senior administration official told Fox News, just moments after President Obama delivered a statement to the nation and did not use the word "terror."
Authorities searched an apartment in the nearby Boston suburb of Revere as part of the investigation into the explosions. FoxNews.com saw federal, state and local law enforcement entering the building late Monday night and early Tuesday morning.
Sources confirmed to FoxNews.com that the apartment being searched in connection to the bombings is on the fifth floor of the building. (FOX)
Indisputable Torture (By The Editorial Board) A dozen years after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, an independent, nonpartisan panel’s examination of the interrogation and detention programs carried out in their aftermath by the Bush administration may seem to be musty old business. But the sweeping report issued on Tuesday by an 11-member task force convened by the Constitution Project, a legal research and advocacy group, provides a valuable, even necessary reckoning.
The work of the task force, led by two former congressmen — Asa Hutchinson, a Republican, who served in the Bush administration as under secretary of the Department of Homeland Security, and James Jones, a Democrat, who was an ambassador to Mexico during the Clinton years — is informed by interviews with dozens of former American and foreign officials, as well as with former prisoners.
It is the fullest independent effort so far to assess the treatment of detainees at Guantánamo Bay, in Afghanistan and Iraq, and at the C.I.A.’s secret prisons. Those who sanctioned the use of brutal methods, like former Vice President Dick Cheney, will continue to defend their use. But the report’s authoritative conclusion that “the United States engaged in the practice of torture” is impossible to dismiss by a public that needs to know what was committed in the nation’s name. (New York Times)
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