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Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) and Attorney General Jeff Sessions got into a heated exchange when Mr. Wyden accused Mr. Sessions of “stonewalling” by declining to answer questions about his conversations with President Trump.
Rallying around three theatrical ‘principles of action,’ the group proposed laws to close imaginary ‘loopholes’, try to expand invasive background databases to create additional burdens for understaffed law enforcement agencies, ignore meaningful mental health legislation reform, and try to think up new ways to harass law-abiding citizens with pointless regulatory efforts that they admit has no hope of saving lives, or surviving challenges in the courts, but is aimed at pacifying their base of control-craving, gun-hating, feeble-minded, anti-democratic, highly-emotional low-information voters.
Philip Wegmann reports: In the week after the mass shooting in Roseburg, Ore., Senate Democrats gathered on the steps of the U.S. Capitol to demand stricter gun control and unveil their comprehensive policy package to achieve it.
“If Obama and gun control advocates were serious, they would address the underlying issue of America’s broken mental health system,” Cox said in a statement. “Instead, they push gun control initiatives that would not have prevented any of the tragedies they seek to exploit.”
Frustrated by the inaction of Republicans and hamstrung by a lack of votes, the group of more than two dozen Senate Democrats sought to spark debate by appealing directly to the public.
“The roll call of American gun tragedies is already far too long,” said Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. “The victims and their families deserve better than a Congress that shrugs its shoulder and waits for the next tragedy.”
Rallying around three “principles of action,” the group proposed laws to close background check loopholes, expand background databases, and crack down on illegal gun sales.
Numerically virtually impossible to pass in the Republican-controlled House, gun control legislation also faces an uphill battle in the Senate. Read the rest of this entry »
WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration has conducted warrantless searches of Americans’ communications as part of the National Security Agency’s surveillance operations that target foreigners located outside of the U.S., the administration’s top intelligence official confirmed in a letter to Congress disclosed Tuesday.
These searches were authorized by a secret surveillance court in 2011, but it was unclear until Tuesday whether any such searches on Americans had been conducted.
The recent acknowledgement of warrantless searches on Americans offers more insight into U.S. government surveillance operations put in place after the terror attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The government has broadly interpreted these laws to allow for the collection of communications of innocent Americans, practices the Obama administration maintains are legal. But President Obama has promised to review some of these programs to determine whether the government should be conducting this type of surveillance at all.
Now the Director of National Intelligence admits it would have been better if Washington had acknowledged the surveillance in the first place…
“I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will. Had we been transparent about this from the outset, we wouldn’t have had the problem we had.”
The American public and most members of Congress were kept in the dark for years about a secret U.S. program to collect and store such records of American citizens on a massive scale.The government’s legal interpretation of section 215 of the Patriot Act that granted the authority for this dragnet collection was itself a state secret.
Whistleblower Edward Snowden’s leaks about NSA spying have set off a fierce global debate about security and privacy in the internet age.
The revelations of the United States performing mass surveillance on an international scale have also unleashed an avalanche of government misstatements aimed at defending, or even denying, the NSA’s dragnet surveillance. We’ve gone through them and picked out some of the biggest whoppers. Read the rest of this entry »
Five myths about libertarians
By Nick Gillespie
Nick Gillespie, editor of Reason.com and a columnist for the Daily Beast, is a co-author of “The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What’s Wrong With America.”
by Nick Gillespie The specter of libertarianism is haunting America. Advocates of sharply reducing the government’s size, scope and spending are raising big bucks from GOP donors, trying to steal the mantle of populism, being blamed for the demise of Detroit and even getting caught in the middle of a battle for the Republican Party. Yet libertarians are among the most misunderstood forces in today’s politics. Let’s clear up some of the biggest misconceptions.
1. Libertarians are a fringe band of “hippies of the right.”
In 1971, the controversial and influential author Ayn Rand denounced right-wing anarchists as “hippies of the right,” a charge still leveled against libertarians, who push for a minimal state and maximal individual freedom.
Libertarians are often dismissed as a mutant subspecies of conservatives: pot smokers who are soft on defense and support marriage equality. But depending on their views, libertarians often match up equally well with right- and left-wingers.
The earliest example of libertarian principles in partisan politics might have come in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,when Anti-Imperialist League Democrats rejected empire and war — and believed in free trade and racial equality at a time when none of that was popular. More recently, civil libertarians such as Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) supported Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) in his filibuster on domestic drones and government surveillance.
Libertarians are found across the political spectrum and in both major parties. In September 2012, the Reason-Rupe Poll found that about one-quarter of Americans fall into the roughly libertarian category of wanting to reduce the government’s roles in economic and social affairs. That’s in the same ballpark as what other surveys have found and more than enough to swing an election.
2. Libertarians don’t care about minorities or the poor.
As the recent discovery of neo-Confederate writings by a former senior aide to Sen. Paul shows, there sometimes is a connection between libertarians and creepy, racist elements in American politics. And given the influence of Ayn Rand among many libertarians, it’s easy to think that they care only about themselves. “I will never live for the sake of another man,” runs a characteristic line from Rand’s 1957 novel, “Atlas Shrugged.”
But at least two of the libertarian movement’s signature causes, school choice and drug legalization, are aimed at creating a better life for poor people, who disproportionately are also minorities. The primary goal of school choice — a movement essentially born out of a 1955 essay about vouchers by libertarian and Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman — is to give lower-income Americans better educational options. Friedman also persuasively argued that the drug war concentrates violence and law enforcement abuses in poor neighborhoods.
Libertarians believe that economic deregulation helps the poor because it ultimately reduces costs and barriers to start new businesses. The leading libertarian public-interest law firm, the Institute for Justice, which has argued Supreme Court cases for free speech and against eminent-domain abuse, got its start defending African American hair-braiders in Washington from licensing laws that shut down home businesses.
“No spy should have that big a tell.”
Boundless Informant: the NSAs secret tool to track global surveillance data
Revealed: The NSA’s powerful tool for cataloguing data – including figures on US collection
The color scheme ranges from green (least subjected to surveillance) through yellow and orange to red (most surveillance). Note the ‘2007’ date in the image relates to the document from which the interactive map derives its top secret classification, not to the map itself.
The National Security Agency has developed a powerful tool for recording and analysing where its intelligence comes from, raising questions about its repeated assurances to Congress that it cannot keep track of all the surveillance it performs on American communications.
The Guardian has acquired top-secret documents about the NSA datamining tool, called Boundless Informant, that details and even maps by country the voluminous amount of information it collects from computer and telephone networks.
The focus of the internal NSA tool is on counting and categorizing the records of communications, known as metadata, rather than the content of an email or instant message.
The Boundless Informant documents show the agency collecting almost 3 billion pieces of intelligence from US computer networks over a 30-day period ending in March 2013. One document says it is designed to give NSA officials answers to questions like, “What type of coverage do we have on country X” in “near real-time by asking the SIGINT [signals intelligence] infrastructure.”
An NSA factsheet about the program, acquired by the Guardian, says: “The tool allows users to select a country on a map and view the metadata volume and select details about the collections against that country.”
Under the heading “Sample use cases”, the factsheet also states the tool shows information including: “How many records (and what type) are collected against a particular country.”
A snapshot of the Boundless Informant data, contained in a top secret NSA “global heat map” seen by the Guardian, shows that in March 2013 the agency collected 97bn pieces of intelligence from computer networks worldwide.
The heat map reveals how much data is being collected from around the world. Note the ‘2007’ date in the image relates to the document from which the interactive map derives its top secret classification, not to the map itself.
Iran was the country where the largest amount of intelligence was gathered, with more than 14bn reports in that period, followed by 13.5bn from Pakistan. Jordan, one of America’s closest Arab allies, came third with 12.7bn, Egypt fourth with 7.6bn and India fifth with 6.3bn.
The heatmap gives each nation a color code based on how extensively it is subjected to NSA surveillance. The color scheme ranges from green (least subjected to surveillance) through yellow and orange to red (most surveillance).
The disclosure of the internal Boundless Informant system comes amid a struggle between the NSA and its overseers in the Senate over whether it can track the intelligence it collects on American communications. The NSA’s position is that it is not technologically feasible to do so.
At a hearing of the Senate intelligence committee In March this year, Democratic senator Ron Wyden asked James Clapper, the director of national intelligence: “Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?”
“No sir,” replied Clapper.
Judith Emmel, an NSA spokeswoman, told the Guardian in a response to the latest disclosures: “NSA has consistently reported – including to Congress – that we do not have the ability to determine with certainty the identity or location of all communicants within a given communication. That remains the case.”
Other documents seen by the Guardian further demonstrate that the NSA does in fact break down its surveillance intercepts which could allow the agency to determine how many of them are from the US. The level of detail includes individual IP addresses.
IP address is not a perfect proxy for someone’s physical location but it is rather close, said Chris Soghoian, the principal technologist with the Speech Privacy and Technology Project of the American Civil Liberties Union. “If you don’t take steps to hide it, the IP address provided by your internet provider will certainly tell you what country, state and, typically, city you are in,” Soghoian said.
That approximation has implications for the ongoing oversight battle between the intelligence agencies and Congress.