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Wednesday, February 19, 2014
NEW YORK, Feb 19 (Reuters) – U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz supports reducing the amount of crude oil shipped by rail in favor of pipelines that are safer, cheaper and cleaner, Capital New York reported on Wednesday.
“What we probably need is more of a pipeline infrastructure and to diminish the need for rail transport over time,” he said in an interview published on the Capital New York website.
He said the infrastructure is “not there” to handle the surge in North Dakota Bakken oil production from near zero to 1 million barrels per day (bpd).
“Frankly, I think pipeline transport overall probably has overall a better record in terms of cost, in terms of emissions and in terms of safety.”
A Department of Energy spokesman was not immediately available to provide more detail on Moniz’s comments.
His comments are among the first by a senior Obama Administration official to signal an apparent preference for shipping oil from places like the Bakken shale by means other than rail lines, in the wake of a series of explosive derailments that have alarmed the public.
While pipelines are generally a much cheaper form of transport, shipping crude in mile-long trains has become a popular alternative since new terminals can be built more quickly than pipelines to serve booming remote shale patches, and offer greater flexibility for refiners.
Moniz has bemoaned the lagging pace of infrastructure development before, but has not been so blunt in backing pipelines over rail shipments.
President Barack Obama has been considering whether to greenlight construction of the Keystone XL pipeline from Canada, without which there could be a significant increase in crude moved by rail, according to a State Department report.
U.S. regulators are considering imposing tougher standards on older models of oil tank cars. Moniz said the U.S. Department of Transportation could issue new regulations this year.
“There’s been a handful of train accidents and that’s been quite troubling,” he said. “We have been transporting oil products by train with a decent safety record over time and there’s a lot of it.”
(Reporting by Jonathan Leff; Editing by David Gregorio)
The US is adding its $0.02 to the international condemnation of the actions under way in Ukraine – desparate to re-write Victoria Nuland’s narrative of “f##k the EUR” and political manipulation. President Obama, having not learned his lesson the last time he drew a red line, has come out swinging…
- *OBAMA:`THERE WILL BE CONSEQUENCES IF PEOPLE STEP OVER THE LINE’
- *OBAMA SAYS U.S. CONDEMNS UKRAINE VIOLENCE IN `STRONGEST TERMS’
- *OBAMA:MILITARY SHOULDN’T ACT WHERE CIVILIANS CAN RESOLVE ISSUES
Of course, it’s unclear if open military action against civilians is ‘crossing the line’ but we await Putin’s response.
More from the WSJ:
The Obama administration is considering sanctions against Ukraine, possibly in concert with European allies, saying the threat of penalties may push the government in Kiev to halt the deadly violence there.
“All of us are deeply disturbed,” Secretary of State John Kerry said during a brief appearance in Paris with his French counterpart. “We are talking about the possibility of sanctions or other steps with our friends in Europe and elsewhere in order to try to create the environment for compromise.”
Mr. Kerry and other U.S. officials didn’t detail what those sanctions might entail, but the administration in the past has held out the threat of individual sanctions, typically steps that freeze assets and limit travel.
The threat from the U.S. comes after violent clashes in Kiev this week have claimed the lives of at least 25 people and as the Obama administration and its European counterparts try to get a handle on the situation.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych has blamed opposition leaders for the violence, while opposition leaders said the government was responsible.
Ben Rhodes, a deputy National Security Adviser to President Barack Obama, said the administration hopes the threat of sanctions will quell some of the violence. “We have made it clear we would consider taking action against individuals who are responsible for acts of violence within Ukraine,” he said while traveling with Mr. Obama to Mexico. Mr. Obama is headed to Mexico, among other reasons, to discuss trade.
Guest Post: Underneath Their Autocratic Rulers, Russia And U.S. On Diverging Societal Paths | Zero Hedge
Submitted by L. Todd Wood, a former special operations helicopter pilot and bond trader.
Underneath Their Autocratic Rulers, Russia and U.S. on Diverging Societal Paths
As the State of the Union address highlighted, both the Russia Federation and the United States have leaders that lean toward various degrees of autocratic government to achieve their agendas. President Putin rules with an iron fist and treats the legislative branch as an afterthought to use as needed but otherwise ignores. President Obama declares he will use executive action to get what he wants and quietly uses government agencies to intimidate and stifle his opposition in flagrant abuses of power. Putin has dismantled the Russian free press and imprisoned vocal opponents. The majority of the American press does Obama’s bidding for him while the administration puts movie makers in jail.
Underneath the tyrannical policies of the two Presidents, American and Russian society are diverging. First let’s look at welfare – it really doesn’t exist in Russia. If you’re a single mother raising your child alone, the state will pay you less than $50 a month. Unemployment insurance is also miniscule. The minimum wage is around $200 a month. I recently asked a Russian friend what they would receive if they lost their job. Her answer was, “It’s my problem, why should the government pay?” Health care is free but of very low quality. Russians with money typically choose private care and buy their own private health insurance.
In the United States, we are seeing an obscene explosion of the nanny-state. Obamacare has been exposed as a huge wealth redistribution scheme. The CBO states that the ACA is a disincentive to work. Disability payments are skyrocketing. The number of Americans receiving food stamps has doubled and is spiraling out of control. Welfare work requirements have been weakened. The left continuously pushes to add more immigrants to the government dole and refuses to enforce current immigration law.
The difference in the tax code between the two countries is also striking. If you live in New York, the combined government tax bite is above sixty percent. It is a safe bet that any Democratic state government will continue to try and raise taxes. Obama raised rates on the top earners in America and would boost them across the board if he could. In Russia, the individual tax rate is a flat thirteen percent. There is an eighteen percent VAT and the corporate rate is twenty-four percent. If Russia could remove her corrupt barriers to entry, her economy would explode higher.
The difference between the two nations when approaching geopolitical challenges cannot be more extreme. The United States has shown a willingness to abandon long standing allies time and time again on the global chessboard. Whether it be Israel, Poland, or Saudi Arabia, the Obama administration has shrank from global leadership and left a gigantic vacuum for President Putin to happily fill. Russia has shown a willingness to ignore Western political correctness and stand up for Russian long-term interests. One only has to look to the Iranian nuclear issue, the Syrian situation, or the Snowden embarrassment to see evidence of Putin schooling the American government. The American position seems to consist of avoiding conflict and appeasing adversaries rather than standing up for historical American values, our allies, and our way of life.
One of the most interesting differences that has been inconveniently obvious in the international press is the Russian refusal to embrace the religion of global warming. While the American government strives to shut down energy economic engines of power, Russia uses energy to achieve its national goals. Putin has been quoted as describing the climate change alarmist agenda as a marketing scheme. Putin has not bought into the madness of crowds to the benefit of Russia.
Perhaps the most curious cavern between the United States and Russia is their approach to religion. The church was effectively shut down during the Soviet experiment. However, in the last few decades, the Russian Orthodox Church has roared back to favor in Russian government opinion. President Putin has even felt emboldened enough to accuse the West of being morally decadent. The Democratic Party in the United States has largely morphed into an atheistic, anything goes, hedonist entity. One only has to look at the refusal of the Obama administration to enforce marijuana laws in America to find evidence of this fact.
I recently had a conversation with a young urban professional in Moscow. Their comment to me was that most young Russians were embarrassed of the communist revolution in Russia. “They killed our best people,” this person commented. I find it curious that the Rolling Stone recently published an article extolling the benefits of the teachings of Karl Marx and echoing the mindset of many of the current millennial generation in America. When the youth of American are yearning for communism, I fear America must relearn the very harsh lessons of the past. If Russia can ever deal with the specter of corruption, her society may leap to the future.
First, the Obama administration showed during the course of the GM and Chrysler bankruptcy proceedings, that when it comes to Most Preferred Voter classes, some unsecured creditors – namely labor unions, and the millions of votes they bring – are more equal than other unsecured creditors – namely bondholders, and the zero votes they bring. Five years later we are about to get a stark reminder that under the superpriority rule of a community organizer for whom “fairness” trumps contract law any day, it is now Detroit’s turn to make a mockery of the recovery waterfall. As it turns out, bankrupt Detroit is proposing to favor pension funds at roughly double the rate of bondholders to resolve an estimated $18 billion in long-term obligations, according to a draft of a debt-cutting plan reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.
The breakdown to unsecured stakeholders would be as follows: 40% recovery for pension funds, 20% for unsecured bondholders – all this to the same pari class of unsecured creditors. Because just like in Europe when cashing out on CDS in insolvent nations is prohibited as it would suggest that the entire Eurozone experiment is one epic farce, regardless of how much “political capital” Goldman Sachs has invested in it, so in the US municipal creditors are realizing that in the worst case scenario, they will be layered first and foremost by all those whose votes are critical in keeping this crony administration in power.
According to the WSJ the plan calls for recovery to be divided among the unsecureds amounting to $4.2 billion, more than the originally planned $2 billion to settle claims which included about $11 billion in unsecured debt, including $6 billion in health and other benefits for retirees; $3.5 billion for retiree pensions; and about $530 million in general-obligation bonds.
There is a possibility that final “math” in the Plan of Reorg is changed before the final draft.
It was unclear from the plan reviewed by the Journal whether the city is using all of the same estimates for the money owed to unsecured creditors in its draft plan. A person familiar with the draft plan said the recovery rate for the pension funds could end lower than the balance sheet shows.
Details of the plan sent to creditors on Wednesday have been kept under wraps as the city and its debtholders continue to talk in closed-door mediation. The city sent its working draft to creditors in the hopes that the plan with a richer payout might spur some of them to settle with the city individually or, in the least, offer their own suggestions toward modifying the overall proposal, according to another person familiar with the matter.
The formal plan is expected to be filed in federal court in Detroit within two weeks, officials said. Creditors will vote on the plan, but the final decision rests with the court.
Still, the probability is that Kevyn Orr has finally gotten cold feet on playing hard ball with the unions. “The proposed plan provides the road map for all parties to resolve all outstanding issues and facilitate the city’s efforts to achieve long-term financial health,” Detroit Emergency Manager Kevyn Orr said in a statement Wednesday. Mr. Orr’s spokesman declined Thursday to comment on the plan’s details. Several creditors, who were opposed to the city’s early plans to offer creditors, including bondholders and pension funds, less than 20 cents on the dollars owed to them, also declined to comment.”
One can only imagine the amount of “Steve Rattnering” that must have gone on behind the scenes, and how much more is still set to happen, for such a skewed plan to pass the bankruptcy judge over creditor objections. Which it will once the president makes a phone call.
Then again, with contract law abrogated as was made very clear with this administration’s first steps into the “Fairness Doctrine” back in 2009 and the bankruptcy of GM and Chrysler, nothing can, or should, surprise one any more.
During more than 14 hours of interviews, the first he has conducted in person since arriving here in June, Snowden did not part the curtains or step outside. Russia granted him temporary asylum on Aug. 1, but Snowden remains a target of surpassing interest to the intelligence services whose secrets he spilled on an epic scale.
During more than 14 hours of interviews, the first he has conducted in person sincearriving here in June, Snowden did not part the curtains or step outside. Russia granted him temporary asylum on Aug. 1, but Snowden remains a target of surpassing interest to the intelligence services whose secrets he spilled on an epic scale.
Late this spring, Snowden supplied three journalists, including this one, with caches of top-secret documents from the National Security Agency, where he worked as a contractor. Dozens of revelations followed, and then hundreds, as news organizations around the world picked up the story. Congress pressed for explanations, new evidence revived old lawsuits and the Obama administration was obliged to declassify thousands of pages it had fought for years to conceal.
Taken together, the revelations have brought to light a global surveillance system that cast off many of its historical restraints after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. Secret legal authorities empowered the NSA to sweep in the telephone, Internet and location records of whole populations. One of the leaked presentation slides described the agency’s “collection philosophy” as “Order one of everything off the menu.”
Six months after the first revelations appeared in The Washington Post and Britain’s Guardian newspaper, Snowden agreed to reflect at length on the roots and repercussions of his choice. He was relaxed and animated over two days of nearly unbroken conversation, fueled by burgers, pasta, ice cream and Russian pastry.
Snowden offered vignettes from his intelligence career and from his recent life as “an indoor cat” in Russia. But he consistently steered the conversation back to surveillance, democracy and the meaning of the documents he exposed.
“For me, in terms of personal satisfaction, the mission’s already accomplished,” he said. “I already won. As soon as the journalists were able to work, everything that I had been trying to do was validated. Because, remember, I didn’t want to change society. I wanted to give society a chance to determine if it should change itself.”
“All I wanted was for the public to be able to have a say in how they are governed,” he said. “That is a milestone we left a long time ago. Right now, all we are looking at are stretch goals.”
‘Going in blind’
Snowden is an orderly thinker, with an engineer’s approach to problem-solving. He had come to believe that a dangerous machine of mass surveillance was growing unchecked. Closed-door oversight by Congress and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court was a “graveyard of judgment,” he said, manipulated by the agency it was supposed to keep in check. Classification rules erected walls to prevent public debate.
Toppling those walls would be a spectacular act of transgression against the norms that prevailed inside them. Someone would have to bypass security, extract the secrets, make undetected contact with journalists and provide them with enough proof to tell the stories.
The NSA’s business is “information dominance,” the use of other people’s secrets to shape events. At 29, Snowden upended the agency on its own turf.
“You recognize that you’re going in blind, that there’s no model,” Snowden said, acknowledging that he had no way to know whether the public would share his views.
“But when you weigh that against the alternative, which is not to act,” he said, “you realize that some analysis is better than no analysis. Because even if your analysis proves to be wrong, the marketplace of ideas will bear that out. If you look at it from an engineering perspective, an iterative perspective, it’s clear that you have to try something rather than do nothing.”
By his own terms, Snowden succeeded beyond plausible ambition. The NSA, accustomed to watching without being watched, faces scrutiny it has not endured since the 1970s, or perhaps ever.
The cascading effects have made themselves felt in Congress, the courts, popular culture, Silicon Valley and world capitals. The basic structure of the Internet itself is now in question, as Brazil and members of the European Union consider measures to keep their data away from U.S. territory and U.S. technology giants including Google, Microsoft and Yahoo take extraordinary steps to block the collection of data by their government.
For months, Obama administration officials attacked Snowden’s motives and said the work of the NSA was distorted by selective leaks and misinterpretations.
On Dec. 16, in a lawsuit that could not have gone forward without the disclosures made possible by Snowden, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon described the NSA’s capabilities as “almost Orwellian” and said its bulk collection of U.S. domestic telephone records was probably unconstitutional.
The next day, in the Roosevelt Room, an unusual delegation of executives from old telephone companies and young Internet firms told President Obama that the NSA’s intrusion into their networks was a threat to the U.S. information economy. The following day, an advisory panel appointed by Obama recommended substantial new restrictions on the NSA, including an end to the domestic call-records program.
“This week is a turning point,” said the Government Accountability Project’s Jesselyn Radack, who is one of Snowden’s legal advisers. “It has been just a cascade.”
‘They elected me’
On June 22, the Justice Department unsealed a criminal complaint charging Snowden with espionage and felony theft of government property. It was a dry enumeration of statutes, without a trace of the anger pulsing through Snowden’s former precincts.
In the intelligence and national security establishments, Snowden is widely viewed as a reckless saboteur, and journalists abetting him little less so.
At the Aspen Security Forum in July, a four-star military officer known for his even keel seethed through one meeting alongside a reporter he knew to be in contact with Snowden. Before walking away, he turned and pointed a finger.
“We didn’t have another 9/11,” he said angrily, because intelligence enabled warfighters to find the enemy first. “Until you’ve got to pull the trigger, until you’ve had to bury your people, you don’t have a clue.”
It is commonly said of Snowden that he broke an oath of secrecy, a turn of phrase that captures a sense of betrayal. NSA Director Keith B. Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper Jr., among many others, have used that formula.
In his interview with The Post, Snowden noted matter-of-factly that Standard Form 312, the classified-information nondisclosure agreement, is a civil contract. He signed it, but he pledged his fealty elsewhere.
“The oath of allegiance is not an oath of secrecy,” he said. “That is an oath to the Constitution. That is the oath that I kept that Keith Alexander and James Clapper did not.”
People who accuse him of disloyalty, he said, mistake his purpose.
“I am not trying to bring down the NSA, I am working to improve the NSA,” he said. “I am still working for the NSA right now. They are the only ones who don’t realize it.”
What entitled Snowden, now 30, to take on that responsibility?
“That whole question — who elected you? — inverts the model,” he said. “They elected me. The overseers.”
He named the chairmen of the Senate and House intelligence committees.
“Dianne Feinstein elected me when she asked softball questions” in committee hearings, he said. “Mike Rogers elected me when he kept these programs hidden. . . . The FISA court elected me when they decided to legislate from the bench on things that were far beyond the mandate of what that court was ever intended to do. The system failed comprehensively, and each level of oversight, each level of responsibility that should have addressed this, abdicated their responsibility.”
“It wasn’t that they put it on me as an individual — that I’m uniquely qualified, an angel descending from the heavens — as that they put it on someone, somewhere,” he said. “You have the capability, and you realize every other [person] sitting around the table has the same capability but they don’t do it. So somebody has to be the first.”
Snowden grants that NSA employees by and large believe in their mission and trust the agency to handle the secrets it takes from ordinary people — deliberately, in the case of bulk records collection, and “incidentally,” when the content of American phone calls and e-mails are swept into NSA systems along with foreign targets.
But Snowden also said acceptance of the agency’s operations was not universal. He began to test that proposition more than a year ago, he said, in periodic conversations with co-workers and superiors that foreshadowed his emerging plan.
Beginning in October 2012, he said, he brought his misgivings to two superiors in the NSA’s Technology Directorate and two more in the NSA Threat Operations Center’s regional base in Hawaii. For each of them, and 15 other co-workers, Snowden said he opened a data query tool called BOUNDLESSINFORMANT, which used color-coded “heat maps” to depict the volume of data ingested by NSA taps.
His colleagues were often “astonished to learn we are collecting more in the United States on Americans than we are on Russians in Russia,” he said. Many of them were troubled, he said, and several said they did not want to know any more.
“I asked these people, ‘What do you think the public would do if this was on the front page?’ ” he said. He noted that critics have accused him of bypassing internal channels of dissent. “How is that not reporting it? How is that not raising it?” he said.
By last December, Snowden was contacting reporters, although he had not yet passed along any classified information. He continued to give his colleagues the “front-page test,” he said, until April.
Asked about those conversations, NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines sent a prepared statement to The Post: “After extensive investigation, including interviews with his former NSA supervisors and co-workers, we have not found any evidence to support Mr. Snowden’s contention that he brought these matters to anyone’s attention.”
Snowden recounted another set of conversations that he said took place three years earlier, when he was sent by the NSA’s Technology Directorate to support operations at a listening post in Japan. As a system administrator, he had full access to security and auditing controls. He said he saw serious flaws with information security.
“I actually recommended they move to two-man control for administrative access back in 2009,” he said, first to his supervisor in Japan and then to the directorate’s chief of operations in the Pacific. “Sure, a whistleblower could use these things, but so could a spy.”
That precaution, which requires a second set of credentials to perform risky operations such as copying files onto a removable drive, has been among the principal security responses to the Snowden affair.
Vines, the NSA spokeswoman, said there was no record of those conversations, either.
U.S. ‘would cease to exist’
Just before releasing the documents this spring, Snowden made a final review of the risks. He had overcome what he described at the time as a “selfish fear” of the consequences for himself.
“I said to you the only fear [left] is apathy — that people won’t care, that they won’t want change,” he recalled this month.
The documents leaked by Snowden compelled attention because they revealed to Americans a history they did not know they had.
Internal briefing documents reveled in the “Golden Age of Electronic Surveillance.” Brawny cover names such as MUSCULAR, TUMULT and TURMOIL boasted of the agency’s prowess.
With assistance from private communications firms, the NSA had learned to capture enormous flows of data at the speed of light from fiber-optic cables that carried Internet and telephone traffic over continents and under seas. According to one document in Snowden’s cache, the agency’s Special Source Operations group, which as early as 2006 was said to be ingesting “one Library of Congress every 14.4 seconds,” had an official seal that might have been parody: an eagle with all the world’s cables in its grasp.
Most of that data, by definition and intent, belonged to ordinary people suspected of nothing. But vast new storage capacity and processing tools enabled the NSA to use the information to map human relationships on a planetary scale. Only this way, its leadership believed, could the NSA reach beyond its universe of known intelligence targets.
In the view of the NSA, signals intelligence, or electronic eavesdropping, was a matter of life and death, “without which America would cease to exist as we know it,” according to an internal presentation in the first week of October 2001 as the agency ramped up its response to the al-Qaeda attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
With stakes such as those, there was no capability the NSA believed it should leave on the table. The agency followed orders from President George W. Bush to begin domestic collection without authority from Congress and the courts. When the NSA won those authorities later, some of them under secret interpretations of laws passed by Congress between 2007 and 2012, the Obama administration went further still.
Using PRISM, the cover name for collection of user data from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, Apple and five other U.S.-based companies, the NSA could obtain all communications to or from any specified target. The companies had no choice but to comply with the government’s request for data.
But the NSA could not use PRISM, which was overseen once a year by the surveillance court, for the collection of virtually all data handled by those companies. To widen its access, it teamed up with its British counterpart, Government Communications Headquarters, or GCHQ, to break into the private fiber-optic links that connected Google and Yahoo data centers around the world.
That operation, which used the cover name MUSCULAR, tapped into U.S. company data from outside U.S. territory. The NSA, therefore, believed it did not need permission from Congress or judicial oversight. Data from hundreds of millions of U.S. accounts flowed over those Google and Yahoo links, but classified rules allowed the NSA to presume that data ingested overseas belonged to foreigners.
Disclosure of the MUSCULAR project enraged and galvanized U.S. technology executives. They believed the NSA had lawful access to their front doors — and had broken down the back doors anyway.
Microsoft general counsel Brad Smith took to his company’s blog and called the NSA an “advanced persistent threat” — the worst of all fighting words in U.S. cybersecurity circles, generally reserved for Chinese state-sponsored hackers and sophisticated criminal enterprises.
“For the industry as a whole, it caused everyone to ask whether we knew as much as we thought,” Smith recalled in an interview. “It underscored the fact that while people were confident that the U.S. government was complying with U.S. laws for activity within U.S. territory, perhaps there were things going on outside the United States . . . that made this bigger and more complicated and more disconcerting than we knew.”
They wondered, he said, whether the NSA was “collecting proprietary information from the companies themselves.”
Led by Google and then Yahoo, one company after another announced expensive plans to encrypt its data traffic over tens of thousands of miles of cable. It was a direct — in some cases, explicit — blow to NSA collection of user data in bulk. If the NSA wanted the information, it would have to request it or circumvent the encryption one target at a time.
As these projects are completed, the Internet will become a less friendly place for the NSA to work. The agency can still collect data from virtually anyone, but collecting from everyone will be harder.
The industry’s response, Smith acknowledged, was driven by a business threat. U.S. companies could not afford to be seen as candy stores for U.S. intelligence. But the principle of the thing, Smith said, “is fundamentally about ensuring that customer data is turned over to governments pursuant to valid legal orders and in accordance with constitutional principles.”
‘Warheads on foreheads’
Snowden has focused on much the same point from the beginning: Individual targeting would cure most of what he believes is wrong with the NSA.
Six months ago, a reporter asked him by encrypted e-mail why Americans would want the NSA to give up bulk data collection if that would limit a useful intelligence tool.
“I believe the cost of frank public debate about the powers of our government is less than the danger posed by allowing these powers to continue growing in secret,” he replied, calling them “a direct threat to democratic governance.”
In the Moscow interview, Snowden said, “What the government wants is something they never had before,” adding: “They want total awareness. The question is, is that something we should be allowing?”
Snowden likened the NSA’s powers to those used by British authorities in Colonial America, when “general warrants” allowed for anyone to be searched. The FISA court, Snowden said, “is authorizing general warrants for the entire country’s metadata.”
“The last time that happened, we fought a war over it,” he said.
Technology, of course, has enabled a great deal of consumer surveillance by private companies, as well. The difference with the NSA’s possession of the data, Snowden said, is that government has the power to take away life or freedom.
At the NSA, he said, “there are people in the office who joke about, ‘We put warheads on foreheads.’ Twitter doesn’t put warheads on foreheads.”
Privacy, as Snowden sees it, is a universal right, applicable to American and foreign surveillance alike.
“I don’t care whether you’re the pope or Osama bin Laden,” he said. “As long as there’s an individualized, articulable, probable cause for targeting these people as legitimate foreign intelligence, that’s fine. I don’t think it’s imposing a ridiculous burden by asking for probable cause. Because, you have to understand, when you have access to the tools the NSA does, probable cause falls out of trees.”
On June 29, Gilles de Kerchove, the European Union’s counterterrorism coordinator, awoke to a report in Der Spiegel that U.S. intelligence had broken into E.U. offices, including his, to implant surveillance devices.
The 56-year-old Belgian, whose work is often classified, did not consider himself naive. But he took the news personally, and more so when he heard unofficial explanations from Washington.
“ ‘Everybody knows. Everybody does’ — Keith Alexander said that,” de Kerchove said in an interview. “I don’t like the idea that the NSA will put bugs in my office. No. I don’t like it. No. Between allies? No. I’m surprised that people find that noble.”
Comparable reactions, expressed less politely in private, accompanied revelations that the NSA had tapped the cellphones of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff. The blowback roiled relations with both allies, among others. Rousseff canceled a state dinner with Obama in September.
When it comes to spying on allies, by Snowden’s lights, the news is not always about the target.
“It’s the deception of the government that’s revealed,” Snowden said, noting that the Obama administration offered false public assurances after the initial reports about NSA surveillance in Germany “The U.S. government said: ‘We follow German laws in Germany. We never target German citizens.’ And then the story comes out and it’s: ‘What are you talking about? You’re spying on the chancellor.’ You just lied to the entire country, in front of Congress.”
In private, U.S. intelligence officials still maintain that spying among friends is routine for all concerned, but they are giving greater weight to the risk of getting caught.
“There are many things we do in intelligence that, if revealed, would have the potential for all kinds of blowback,” Clapper told a House panel in October.
‘They will make mistakes’
U.S. officials say it is obvious that Snowden’s disclosures will do grave harm to intelligence gathering, exposing methods that adversaries will learn to avoid.
“We’re seeing al-Qaeda and related groups start to look for ways to adjust how they communicate,” said Matthew Olsen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center and a former general counsel at the NSA.
Other officials, who declined to speak on the record about particulars, said they had watched some of their surveillance targets, in effect, changing channels. That evidence can be read another way, they acknowledged, given that the NSA managed to monitor the shift.
Clapper has said repeatedly in public that the leaks did great damage, but in private he has taken a more nuanced stance. A review of early damage assessments in previous espionage cases, he said in one closed-door briefing this fall, found that dire forecasts of harm were seldom borne out.
“People must communicate,” he said, according to one participant who described the confidential meeting on the condition of anonymity. “They will make mistakes, and we will exploit them.”
According to senior intelligence officials, two uncertainties feed their greatest concerns. One is whether Russia or China managed to take the Snowden archive from his computer, a worst-case assumption for which three officials acknowledged there is no evidence.
In a previous assignment, Snowden taught U.S. intelligence personnel how to operate securely in a “high-threat digital environment,” using a training scenario in which China was the designated threat. He declined to discuss the whereabouts of the files, but he said that he is confident he did not expose them to Chinese intelligence in Hong Kong. And he said he did not bring them to Russia.
“There’s nothing on it,” he said, turning his laptop screen toward his visitor. “My hard drive is completely blank.”
The other big question is how many documents Snowden took. The NSA’s incoming deputy director, Rick Ledgett, said on CBS’s “60 Minutes” recently that the number may approach 1.7 million, a huge and unexplained spike over previous estimates. Ledgett said he wouldfavor trying to negotiate an amnesty with Snowden in exchange for “assurances that the remainder of the data could be secured.”
Obama’s national security adviser, Susan E. Rice, later dismissed the possibility.
“The government knows where to find us if they want to have a productive conversation about resolutions that don’t involve Edward Snowden behind bars,” said the American Civil Liberties Union’s Ben Wizner, the central figure on Snowden’s legal team.
Some news accounts have quoted U.S. government officials as saying Snowden has arranged for the automated release of sensitive documents if he is arrested or harmed. There are strong reasons to doubt that, beginning with Snowden’s insistence, to this reporter and others, that he does not want the documents published in bulk.
If Snowden were fool enough to rig a “dead man’s switch,” confidants said, he would be inviting anyone who wants the documents to kill him.
Asked about such a mechanism in the Moscow interview, Snowden made a face and declined to reply. Later, he sent an encrypted message. “That sounds more like a suicide switch,” he wrote. “It wouldn’t make sense.”
‘It’s not about me’
By temperament and circumstance, Snowden is a reticent man, reluctant to discuss details about his personal life.
Over two days his guard never dropped, but he allowed a few fragments to emerge. He is an “ascetic,” he said. He lives off ramen noodles and chips. He has visitors, and many of them bring books. The books pile up, unread. The Internet is an endless library and a window on the progress of his cause.
“It has always been really difficult to get me to leave the house,” he said. “I just don’t have a lot of needs. . . . Occasionally there’s things to go do, things to go see, people to meet, tasks to accomplish. But it’s really got to be goal-oriented, you know. Otherwise, as long as I can sit down and think and write and talk to somebody, that’s more meaningful to me than going out and looking at landmarks.”
In hope of keeping focus on the NSA, Snowden has ignored attacks on himself.
“Let them say what they want,” he said. “It’s not about me.”
Former NSA and CIA director Michael V. Hayden predicted that Snowden will waste away in Moscow as an alcoholic, like other “defectors.” To this, Snowden shrugged. He does not drink at all. Never has.
But Snowden knows his presence here is easy ammunition for critics. He did not choose refuge in Moscow as a final destination. He said that once the U.S. government voided his passport as he tried to change planes en route to Latin America, he had no other choice.
It would be odd if Russian authorities did not keep an eye on him, but no retinue accompanied Snowden and his visitor saw no one else nearby. Snowden neither tried to communicate furtively nor asked that his visitor do so. He has had continuous Internet access and has talked to his attorneys and to journalists daily, from his first day in the transit lounge at Sheremetyevo airport.
“There is no evidence at all for the claim that I have loyalties to Russia or China or any country other than the United States,” he said. “I have no relationship with the Russian government. I have not entered into any agreements with them.”
“If I defected at all,” Snowden said, “I defected from the government to the public.”
Here’s an article by Daniel Drezner, a professor of international politics at Tufts University and a contributing editor to Foreign Policy. He recently spent a day at the NSA’s headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland. As you might expect, some interesting tidbits came from the mouths of some of these control-freak statists. One truly unenlightened official seemed to hold the press in particular disregard and stated: “I have some reforms for the First Amendment.” I’m quite certain he has some reforms in mind for the 4th Amendment as well…
Once again I ask, if they hold the U.S. Constitution and civil rights in such disdain; what exactly are they protecting us from?
From Foreign Policy:
For an organization that is so efficient at amassing data intended to be kept secret, the National Security Agency seemed surprisingly clumsy in accepting data that was volunteered to them. I’d emailed the bits and pieces of my personal data necessary to be cleared for access to the agency’s headquarters in Fort Meade a week before the scheduled visit, with zero response. As it turns out, an NSA server has crashed, they told me, creating havoc with some email accounts. This sort of hiccup humanizes the agency, though it also raises questions about their vulnerability.
The NSA’s biggest strategic communications problem, however, is that they’ve been so walled off from the American body politic that they have no idea when they’re saying things that sound tone-deaf. Like expats returning from a long overseas tour, NSA staffers don’t quite comprehend how much perceptions of the agency have changed. The NSA stresses in its mission statement and corporate culture that it “protects privacy rights.” Indeed, there were faded banners proclaiming that goal in our briefing room. Of course, NSAers see this as protecting Americans from foreign cyber-intrusions. In a post-Snowden era, however, it’s impossible to read that statement without suppressing a laugh.
The NSA’s attitude toward the press is, well, disturbing. There were repeated complaints about the ways in which recent reportage of the NSA was warped or lacking context. To be fair, this kind of griping is a staple of officials across the entire federal government. Some of the NSA folks went further, however. One official accused some media outlets of “intentionally misleading the American people,” which is a pretty serious accusation. This official also hoped that the Obama administration would crack down on these reporters, saying, “I have some reforms for the First Amendment.” I honestly do not know whether that last statement was a joke or not. Either way, it’s not funny.
If that’s what they are willing to say when a professor is around, just imagine what they say behind closed doors…
Full article here.
Days after terrorists attacked the U.S. mission in Benghazi, a State Department official ordered an executive at the security company charged with protecting the special compound not to respond to media inquiries, according to documents obtained by Judicial Watch.
The order was delivered via electronic mail and it’s part of a new batch of State Department documents obtained by JW in an ongoing investigation of the September 11, 2012 Benghazi attack and subsequent cover-up by the Obama administration. Islamic jihadists raided the U.S. Special Mission Compound in Benghazi, Libya and murdered Ambassador Christopher Stevens—the first diplomat to be killed overseas in decades—and three other Americans.
The Obama administration has worked hard to keep details of the attack—and the negligence that led to it—from the American public, but JW has gone to court and filed a number of public records requests to expose the truth. JW has also published two in-depth special reports on Benghazi, the last one on the first anniversary of the terrorist attack. Read the special reports here and here.
The latest batch of documents obtained by JW include a scandalous email from a State Department contracting officer named Jan Visintainer to an unidentified executive at Blue Mountain Group (BMG), the inexperienced foreign company hired to protect the U.S. mission in Benghazi. In the email, dated September 26, 2012, Visintainer writes: “Thank you so much for informing us about the media inquiries. We notified our public affairs personnel that they too may receive some questions. We concur with you that at the moment the best way to deal with the inquiries is to either be silent or provide no comments.”
Some of the records were redacted or simply not included. For instance Visintainer received a cryptic email from a redacted source with an attachment that was not provided to JW by the State Department. The exchange, just two days before the attack, received a lot of attention from both the State Department and BMG, which could indicate that perhaps it contained a more specific concern or warning about the U.S. mission’s vulnerability.
Last month JW released the Benghazi security contract that paid BMG, a virtually unknown and untested British company, $794,264 for nearly 50,000 guard hours. The Benghazi security deal had not been available to the public because it was not listed as part of the large master State Department contract that covers protection for overseas embassies. JW had to take legal action to get it.
The deal is for one year and includes very specific requirements for things like foot patrols, package inspection, contingency and mobilization planning. The total guard force was 45,880 with an additional 1,376 guards for “emergency services,” the contract shows. It also includes one vehicle and 12 radio networks. The guards were responsible for protecting the U.S. government personnel, facilities and equipment from damage or loss, the contract states. “The local guard force shall prevent unauthorized access; protect life; maintain order; deter criminal attacks against employees; dependents and property terrorist acts against all U.S. assets and prevent damage to government property.” Clearly the firm failed miserably to fulfill its contractual obligation.
“If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.” Sadly, that appears to be the approach that the Obama administration and the mainstream media are taking with the U.S. economy. They seem to believe that if they just keep telling the American people over and over that things are getting better, eventually the American people will believe that it is actually true. On Friday, it was announced that the unemployment rate had fallen to “7 percent”, and the mainstream media responded with a mix of euphoria and jubilation. For example, one USA Today article declared that “with today’s jobs report, one really can say that our long national post-financial crisis nightmare is over.” But is that actually the truth? As you will see below, if you assume that the labor force participation rate in the U.S. is at the long-term average, the unemployment rate in the United States would actually be 11.5 percent instead of 7 percent. There has been absolutely no employment recovery. The percentage of Americans that are actually working has stayed between 58 and 59 percent for 51 months in a row. But most Americans don’t understand these things and they just take whatever the mainstream media tells them as the truth.
And of course the reality of the matter is that we should have seen some sort of an economic recovery by now. Those running our system have literally been mortgaging the future in a desperate attempt to try to pump up our economic numbers. The federal government has been on the greatest debt binge in U.S. history and the Federal Reserve has been printing money like crazed lunatics. All of that “stimulus” should have had some positive short-term effects on the economy.
Sadly, all of those “emergency measures” do not appear to have done much at all. The percentage of Americans that have a job has stayed remarkably flat since the end of 2009, median household income has fallen for five years in a row, and the rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen for eight years in a row. Anyone that claims that the U.S. economy is experiencing a “recovery” is simply not telling the truth. The following are 37 reasons why “the economic recovery of 2013” is a giant lie…
#1 The only reason that the official unemployment rate has been declining over the past couple of years is that the federal government has been pretending that millions upon millions of unemployed Americans no longer want a job and have “left the labor force”. As Zero Hedge recently demonstrated, if the labor force participation rate returned to the long-term average of 65.8 percent, the official unemployment rate in the United States would actually be 11.5 percentinstead of 7 percent.
#2 The percentage of Americans that are actually working is much lower than it used to be. In November 2000, 64.3 percent of all working age Americans had a job. When Barack Obama first entered the White House, 60.6 percent of all working age Americans had a job. Today, only 58.6 percent of all working age Americans have a job. In fact, as you can see from the chart posted below, there has been absolutely no “employment recovery” since the depths of the last recession…
#3 The employment-population ratio has now been under 59 percent for 51 months in a row.
#4 There are 1,148,000 fewer Americans working today than there was in November 2006. Meanwhile, our population has grown by more than 16 million people during that time frame.
#5 The “inactivity rate” for men in their prime working years (25 to 54) has just hit a brand new all-time record high. Does this look like an “economic recovery” to you?…
#6 The number of working age Americans without a job has increasedby a total of 27 million since the year 2000.
#9 Only about 47 percent of all adults in America have a full-time job at this point.
#10 The ratio of wages to corporate profits in the United States just hit a brand new all-time low.
#11 It is hard to believe, but in America today one out of every ten jobs is now filled by a temp agency.
#12 Approximately one out of every four part-time workers in America is living below the poverty line.
#13 In this economic environment, there is intense competition even for the lowest paying jobs. Wal-Mart recently opened up two new stores in Washington D.C., and more than 23,000 people applied for just 600 positions. That means that only about 2.6 percent of the applicants were ultimately hired. In comparison, Harvard offers admission to 6.1 percent of their applicants.
#14 According to the Social Security Administration, 40 percent of all U.S. workers make less than $20,000 a year.
#15 When Barack Obama took office, the average duration of unemployment in this country was 19.8 weeks. Today, it is 37.2 weeks.
#16 According to the New York Times, long-term unemployment in America is up by 213 percent since 2007.
#17 Thanks to Obama administration policies which are systematically killing off small businesses in the United States, the percentage of self-employed Americans is at an all-time low today.
Bush Sr.: 11.3
Bush Jr.: 10.8
#19 According to the U.S. Census Bureau, median household income in the United States has fallen for five years in a row.
#20 The rate of homeownership in the United States has fallen for eight years in a row.
#21 Back in 1999, 64.1 percent of all Americans were covered by employment-based health insurance. Today, only 54.9 percent of all Americans are covered by employment-based health insurance, andthanks to Obamacare millions more Americans are now losing their health insurance plans.
#23 Total consumer credit has risen by a whopping 22 percent over the past three years.
#24 In 2008, the total amount of student loan debt in this country was sitting at about 440 billion dollars. Today, it has shot up toapproximately a trillion dollars.
#25 Under Barack Obama, the velocity of money (a very important indicator of economic health) has plunged to a post-World War II low.
#26 Back in the year 2000, our trade deficit with China was 83 billion dollars. In 2008, our trade deficit with China was 268 billion dollars. Last year, it was 315 billion dollars. That was the largest trade deficit that one nation has had with another nation in world history.
#27 The gap between the rich and the poor in the United States is at anall-time record high.
#28 Right now, 1.2 million students that attend public schools in the United States are homeless. That is a brand new all-time record high, and that number has risen by 72 percent since the start of the last recession.
#29 When Barack Obama first entered the White House, there were about 32 million Americans on food stamps. Today, there are more than 47 million Americans on food stamps.
#30 Right now, approximately one out of every five households in the United States is on food stamps.
#31 According to the Survey of Income and Program Participation conducted by the U.S. Census, well over 100 million Americans are enrolled in at least one welfare program run by the federal government.
#32 In 2000, the U.S. government spent 199 billion dollars on Medicaid. In 2008, the U.S. government spent 338 billion dollars on Medicaid. In 2012, the U.S. government spent 417 billion dollars on Medicaid, and now Obamacare is going to add tens of millions more Americans to the Medicaid rolls.
#33 In 2000, the U.S. government spent 219 billion dollars on Medicare. In 2008, the U.S. government spent 462 billion dollars on Medicare. In 2012, the U.S. government spent 560 billion dollars on Medicare, and that number is expected to absolutely skyrocket in the years ahead as the Baby Boomers retire.
#34 According to the most recent numbers from the U.S. Census Bureau, an all-time record high 49.2 percent of all Americans are receiving benefits from at least one government program.
#35 The U.S. government has spent an astounding 3.7 trillion dollarson welfare programs over the past five years.
#37 The U.S. national debt is on pace to more than double during the eight years of the Obama administration. In other words, under Barack Obama the U.S. government will accumulate more debt than it did under all of the other presidents in U.S. history combined.
Fortunately, it appears that most Americans are not buying into the propaganda. According to a new CNN survey, the percentage of Americans that believe that the economy is getting worse far exceeds the percentage of Americans that believe that the economy is improving…
Americans views on the state of the nation are turning increasingly sour, according to a new national poll.
And a CNN/ORC International survey released Friday also indicates that less than a quarter of the public says that economic conditions are improving, while nearly four in ten say the nation’s economy is getting worse.
Forty-one percent of those questioned in the poll say things are going well in the country today, down nine percentage points from April, and the lowest that number has been in CNN polling since February 2012. Fifty-nine percent say things are going badly, up nine points from April.
So what do you think?
Do you believe that the U.S. economy is getting better or getting worse? Please feel free to share what you think by posting a comment below…
When the US government said the sequester would cripple its ability to single-handedly rule over the world, it wasn’t kidding. Either that, or Joe Biden’s Joint Strategic Plan to “curb” copyright infringement was just a case of very confused humor by the vice president gone badly wrong, and he meant to “encourage.” Whatever the reason, the fact that the Obama administration was just busted with a $50 million case of software piracy involving none other than the US Army, is indicative that while the Bureau of Labor Statistics was adopting all the best features of the Chinese Department of Truth, the US government was busy copycatting China’s respectful approach toward intellectual property. Yet what is even worse, is that the software that was pirated managed the US army’s troop and supply movements: in other words, the US government relied on pirated software to prepare for and engage in eventual war.
Specifically, the army “used Apptricity’s integrated transportation logistics and asset management software across the Middle East and other theaters of operation. The Army has also used the software to coordinate emergency management initiatives, including efforts following the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti.”
Here’s what happened, as reported by RT: in 2004, Apptricity agreed with the US Army to license the troop-movement software, allowing the government to use it on five servers and 150 standalone devices. What happened instead is that the Army proceeded to use the softward around the world. “The improper installation of thousands of unlicensed copies of software was discovered incidentally, when the US Army Program Director said during Strategic Capabilities Planning 2009 that thousands of devices had Apptricity software.”
Ultimately, 93 servers and over 9,000 standalone devices of the Army had the unlicensed software. Apptricity figured it was owed US$224 million based on usual fees of US$1.35 million per server and US$5,000 per device.
Upon discovering just how vast the US government piracy stretched Apptricity sued the government, accusing the US military of willful copyright infringement. It won, and the government went on to admit the illegal use and entered into lengthy negotiations with Apptricity to settle. The cost to the Obama administration from being caught in the act: $50 million in damages.
RT does a great summary of yet another instance of remarkable hypocrisy by the “most transparent administration ever.”
While the Obama administration’s has launched efforts against intellectual property theft – including the Joint Strategic Plan run by Vice President Joe Biden that aims to curb copyright infringement – the US Army was concurrently using pirated Apptricity enterprise software that manages troop and supply movements.
The Administration has yet to comment on the settlement. But Biden’s words upon announcing the federal anti-copyright-infringement plan ring clear.
“Piracy is theft, clean and simple.”
Even when it was your subordinates that engaged in theft? Surely someone’s hand will be slapped, right? But one can be absolutely certain: neither Biden nor Obama “had any idea”…
What was not mentioned anywhere, however, is just how the US government spent the hundreds of millions in appropriated funds, because it is guaranteed that the Army was allotted the full mandated amount by Congress to purchase every single piece of Apptricity software it would ever need. And still somehow $200 million disappeared. Of course in any non-banana republic, a legal system might inquire in whose pockets this excess cash ended up. Which of course means that in the US nobody will even consider this eventuality, especially since Ben Bernanke prints that amount in roughly 5 minutes every day.
Finally, one wonders: what would happen if in the middle of a Syrian (or any other) war suddenly the US army was halted dead in its tracks when HQ got a flashing red “Your 30 Day trial period has expired. Please insert activation code now” notification. We can only hope US drone command didn’t get its copy of “Blow Up Innocent Women And Children From 10,000 Miles Away Ver 1.0” on the Moscow black market.
Instead, as The Hill reported shortly thereafter, “A senior administration official on Monday rejected Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Diane Feinstein’s claim that the U.S. has halted intelligence collection against its allies. In a statement released earlier Monday, the California Democrat said that the White House “has informed me that collection on our allies will not continue.” But the administration official called that statement “not accurate.” In other words, the situation surrounding Obama’s global Watergate hotel, has devolved to a state where the executive and the Chair of the Legislative’s intelligence committee are not even able to communicate in order to get their story straight about lying what the US will and won’t do in the future. Because, needless to say, any promise that the US won’t do what it obviously will continue doing as there is absolutely no downside to doing so, is merely the latest lie in long and illustrious chain of seasonally adjusted truths.
From The Hill:
“While we have made some individual changes, which I cannot detail, we have not made across the board changes in policy like, for example, terminating intelligence collection that might be aimed at all allies,” the administration official said.
And then the confusion and backtracking began:
After the administration’s statement, a spokesman for Feinstein clarified that the senatorintended to say that the U.S. was ceasing “collection on foreign allied leaders.”
Feinstein also said that it was her understanding President Obama “was not aware” the U.S. had been monitoring the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday that Obama first learned of the program, which apparently began in 2002, during an internal audit of intelligence practices this summer.
Why do we know Obama is “not” lying? Because he had no comment.
In an interview Monday afternoon with Fusion, the president refused to comment when asked about when he became aware of the surveillance.
What we do know, is that Obama no longer has a direct feed to Merkel’s cell phone. Whatever that means:
The administration has announced at least one determination, however. White House press secretary Jay Carney said last week that Obama assured Merkel in a private phone conversation that the administration was not currently monitoring her cell phone, nor would they do so in the future.
All the BS aside, in retrospect if indeed the NSA, being a government agency, does its job with the “efficiency” with which the government makes up lies on the fly, then there is absolutely nothing to worry about. For either the allies of the US, as long as that special status continues, or the billions of electronic communications intercepted among US citizens each day.