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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)
Obama: I've got 'bigger fish to fry' than pot smokers In an interview with ABC News, President Obama told Barbara Walters that recreational pot smoking in states that have legalized the drug is not a major concern for his administration.
“We’ve got bigger fish to fry,” Obama said of marijuana smokers in Colorado and Washington, the two states where recreational use is now legal.
“It would not make sense for us to see a top priority as going after recreational users in states that have determined that it’s legal,” he said.
Going after individual users has never been part of federal policy. But under Obama, the Drug Enforcement Administration has aggressively gone after medical marijuana dispensaries in California, where they are legal. In September, federal officials raided several Los Angeles shops and sent warnings to many more. (Washington Post)
Senate bill rewrite lets feds read your e-mail without warrants Proposed law scheduled for a vote next week originally increased Americans' e-mail privacy. Then law enforcement complained. Now it increases government access to e-mail and other digital files. - A Senate proposal touted as protecting Americans' e-mail privacy has been quietly rewritten, giving government agencies more surveillance power than they possess under current law, CNET has learned.
Patrick Leahy, the influential Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, has dramatically reshaped his legislation in response to law enforcement concerns, according to three individuals who have been negotiating with Leahy's staff over the changes. A vote on his bill, which now authorizes warrantless access to Americans' e-mail, is scheduled for next week. (CNet News)
Overlooking Oversight In late May, Congress extended three enhanced surveillance powers that were granted to the government after the 9/11 attacks — two in the Patriot Act and one from a related intelligence law. In doing so, lawmakers neatly managed to avoid any lapse in those powers. They failed miserably in their duty to carefully re-examine the provisions, trim back excesses, and add safeguards to protect civil liberties. In other words, they ignored the whole point of requiring that the provisions be periodically reviewed.
One of the renewed provisions permits a roving wiretap on terrorism suspects who switch phone numbers or providers. While this is a useful tool, the lax rules for specifying who is the subject of the wiretap could invite abuse. Another provision permits the government to examine library, bookstore and business records without having to show that the material is related to a terrorism investigation. (New York Times)
Sen. Leahy on anthrax case: 'It's not closed' After the deadly shooting rampage in Tucson, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) was asked to reflect on his own experience as the would-be target of an assassin. That's when he let slip something that he rarely talks about publicly: He has never accepted the FBI's decision to close the case in the series of anthrax-laced letters mailed to public officials in fall 2001.
"I still wonder who sent it and why they sent it," the Judiciary Committee chairman told a crowd gathered last month at the Newseum in Northwest Washington to hear his 2011 legislative agenda.
More than a month later, Leahy was given fresh evidence this week that the science in the case was not airtight, reopening emotional wounds 91/2 years after letters sent to him and then-Senate Majority Leader Thomas A. Daschle (D-S.D.) helped cause the deaths of five people and sickened 17 others. On Tuesday, the National Research Council questioned the efficacy of the genetic testing used by the FBI to allege that a Fort Detrick scientist had acted alone in mailing the deadly letters to Capitol Hill and media outlets. (Washington Post)
Senate Judiciary Slates Piracy Bill Markup: Markup on S. 3804 scheduled Nov. 18 The Senate Judiciary Committee could vote an online piracy bill out of committee next week.
The committee has scheduled a markup Nov. 18 on S. 3804, Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, which is sponsored by Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) among many others, including Republicans like Orrin Hatch of Utah and Lamar Alexander of Tennessee.
It is possible the committee could get caught up in a number of nomination also scheduled for a vote at the meeting, but online protection is an important subject for the chairman. A separate piracy bill, S. 3728, the Innovative Design Protection and Piracy Protection Act, is also scheduled for mark-up.
The bill would give the Justice Department more power to shut down Web sites that illegally stream or sell TV shows and movies. (Broadcasting & Cable)
The Chamber of Commerce's Agenda: Killing Net Neutrality and Censoring the Internet The U.S. Chamber of Commerce's attempt to throw next week's elections is cause for widespread alarm -- their agenda includes privatizing social security, undoing worker and consumer rights, blocking environmental protections, keeping banking regulations loose, and stymieing important health care reforms.
You can help Demand Progress fight back by signing on to our campaign that calls on local chambers of commerce to disaffiliate from the U.S. Chamber. The movement's already begun, with one New Hampshire chapter breaking off, and several others publicly distancing themselves from the national's shenanigans. - 2. The Chamber supports the Internet Blacklist bill that we told you about last month -- the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA). COICA vastly expands the government's ability to block access to certain websites -- in ways that run roughshod over due process rights and violate the First Amendment. (Huffington Post)
Engineers Slam Internet 'Censorship' Bill Under Review by Senate Internet entrepreneurs are in a panic over a Senate bill they say will censor the Web, stifle Silicon Valley startups, damage the United States' credibility on free speech and ultimately trigger the creation of an alternate-universe Internet.
The West Coast engineers say they were blindsided last Monday when the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act was introduced in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill has a bipartisan roster of co-sponsors who say it will be a tool for stopping the worst offenders in the world of online piracy.
The bill would give the attorney general new powers to shut down websites deemed dedicated to counterfeit material -- by going through the courts and by encouraging service providers to go after sites the Justice Department puts on a public blacklist.
According to the bill, a website would have to be "dedicated to infringing activities" to trigger the enforcement. (Fox)
White House IP Chief Talks Tough on Online Piracy The top White House official overseeing intellectual property issues on Tuesday said that the administration is meeting with a broad array of Internet companies in an attempt to craft policies to curtail the flow of online pirated content.
Victoria Espinel, who serves as the nation's first intellectual property enforcement coordinator within the Office of Management and Budget, said the administration is working with a variety of stakeholders, including Internet service providers, search engines and payment processors, in what it is billing as a "voluntary cooperation initiative."
"We are now actively calling on the private sector to do more in this area," Espinel said this morning at an event hosted by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation. "In order to have a functioning Internet, there are many different types of entities and functionalities that you need to make that work. So we are calling on all of those to work cooperatively with the rights holders."
For instance, Espinel plans to meet tomorrow with a group of domain name registrars and registries to discuss, among other things, the prospect of denying Web addresses to illegal pharmacies selling knock-off drugs. (Internet.com)
Bill Would Give Justice Department Power to Shutter Piracy Sites Worldwide Lawmakers introduced legislation Monday that would let the Justice Department seek U.S. court orders against piracy websites anywhere in the world, and shut them down through the sites’ domain registration.
The bipartisan legislation, dubbed the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act, (.pdf) amounts to the Holy Grail of intellectual-property enforcement. The recording industry and movie studios have been clamoring for such a capability since the George W. Bush administration. If passed, the Justice Department could ask a federal court for an injunction that would order a U.S. domain registrar or registry to stop resolving an infringing site’s domain name, so that visitors to PirateBay.org, for example, would get an error message.
“In today’s global economy the internet has become the glue of international commerce –- connecting consumers with a wide array of products and services worldwide,” said Sen. Orin Hatch (R-Utah) in a statement announcing the bill. “But it’s also become a tool for online thieves to sell counterfeit and pirated goods, making hundreds of millions of dollars off of stolen American intellectual property.” (Wired)
Obama Backs Extending Patriot Act Spy Provisions The Obama administration has told Congress it supports renewing three provisions of the Patriot Act due to expire at year’s end, measures making it easier for the government to spy within the United States.
In a letter to Sen. Patrick Leahy, the Vermont Democrat and chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Justice Department said the administration might consider “modifications” to the act in order to protect civil liberties.
“The administration is willing to consider such ideas, provided that they do not undermine the effectiveness of these important authorities,” Ronald Weich, assistant attorney general, wrote to Leahy, (.pdf) whose committee is expected to consider renewing the three expiring Patriot Act provisions next week. The government disclosed the letter Tuesday.
It should come as no surprise that President Barack Obama supports renewing the provisions, which were part of the Patriot Act approved six weeks after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
As an Illinois senator in 2008, he voted to allow the warrantless monitoring of Americans’ electronic communications if they are communicating overseas with somebody the government believes is linked to terrorism. That legislative package, which President George W. Bush signed, also immunized the nation’s telecommunication companies from lawsuits charging them with being complicit with the Bush administration’s warrantless, wiretapping program. That program was also adopted in the wake of Sept. 11. (Wired)
US to discuss trade, drugs with Mexico and Canada "The bottom line is that what affects our bordering neighbors has the potential to affect us all, so we want to be certain that we have the tightest and best possible cooperation," said National Security Adviser Gen. James Jones during a White House briefing with the news media. - The summit -- a part of the three nations' Security and Prosperity Partnership -- was established five years ago by leaders who are no longer in office, said Maureen Meyer, a Mexico expert at the Washington Office on Latin America, which promotes human rights and democracy in the region. (London Guardian)
The Secret History Can Leon Panetta move the C.I.A. forward without confronting its past? - Panetta had become an advocate for secrecy so quickly, a White House official joked, that "it's like 'Invasion of the Body Snatchers.'" (The New Yorker)
Martial Law, the Financial Bailout, and the Afghan and Iraq Wars The excuse for bypassing normal legislative procedures was the existence of an emergency. But one of the most reprehensible features of the legislation, that it allowed Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson to permit bailed-out institutions to use public money for exorbitant salaries and bonuses, was inserted by Paulson after the immediate crisis had passed. - It is worth noticing that, ever since the 1950s, dubious events--of the unpublic variety I have called deep events--have marked the last months before a change of party in the White House. These deep events have tended to a) constrain incoming presidents, if the incomer is a Democrat, or alternatively b) to pave the way for the incomer, if he is a Republican. (The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus)
Letter to Thomas Kean from Sibel Edmonds Your report has omitted any reference to this most serious issue, has forgone any accountability whatsoever, and your recommendations have refrained from addressing this issue, which when left unaddressed will have even more serious consequences. This issue is systemic and departmental. Why did your report choose to exclude this information and this serious issue despite the evidence and briefings you received? How can budget increases address and resolve this misconduct by mid-level bureaucratic management? How can the addition of a new bureaucratic layer, "intelligence czar", in its cocoon removed from the action lines, address and resolve this problem? (Asia Times)
George Bush went on Anti-anthrax "Cipro" on 9-11 This is a few weeks before the anthrax attacks that began on October, 2001. This means that the White House had fore-knowledge of the impending anthrax terrorist attacks and did not warn the American people (ACN)
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