Tag Archives: Politics

Limit surveillance to ‘terrorist communication,’ says outgoing NSA boss

Limit surveillance to ‘terrorist communication’ says outgoing NSA boss Limit surveillance to ‘terrorist communication,’ says outgoing NSA boss

General Keith Alexander, the soon-to-be departed chief of the NSA, admitted Thursday in front of a congressional committee that the massive intelligence agency may be open to extracting less, or more targeted metadata from communication companies.
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Classified documents leaked last summer by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the intelligence agency currently compels at least three major telephone providers – Verizon, Sprint, and AT&T – to turn over call information on millions of Americans. Among that information, known as metadata, is the duration of the call, the time the call was made, who the phone call was to, and where it originated.

Snowden disclosed a trove of secret information about US intelligence activity to the press, but the collection of phone metadata has been perhaps the most controversial, in part because of its sheer breadth.

Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) was among those hoping to find more when, at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, he asked Alexander how the metadata is collected and stored.

Chairman, I think there are three options that you put on the table,” Alexander replied. “You mentioned the government holding it, the ISPs holding it. I think there is yet another option where we look at what data you actually need and only get that data.

Can we come up with a capability that just gets those that are predicated on a terrorist communication? I think you have those three options that I’ve put on the table,” he continued. “Those are three of the ones that I think need to be clearly discussed and the merits from both sides, they have pros and cons on the agility that you would have with the program.”

Alexander was referring to possible reforms to the NSA set forth by US intelligence and law enforcement leaders earlier this week. US President Obama, who has said he is open to reforming the surveillance programs after public scrutiny, tasked the attorney general and other administration officials to propose theories on how the phone metadata collection program could remain in use.

The most radical proposal, according to anonymous sources who spoke to the Wall Street Journal, would be to entirely abandon the collection of telephony metadata. Officials are also considering turning that vast datalog over to a government agency other than the NSA – either the FBI or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, perhaps.

Alexander’s testimony seemed to indicate that the scenario the administration is taking most seriously is leaving the trove metadata with the phone company, with the NSA only forcing the company to handover information about numbers thought to be involved in a web of terrorism.

It’s impossible to guess exactly what Alexander’s intentions are, though, because of the general’s reputation as a surveillance hawk. One unnamed intelligence source told the Washington Post in 2013 that Alexander organized the mass collection of Iraqi telecommunication information as a measure against terror attacks on US troops there. That official implied that Alexander had brought the same approach stateside.

Rather than look for a single needle in the haystack, [Alexander’s] approach was, ‘Let’s collect the whole haystack,’” he said. “Collect it all, tag it, store it…And whatever it is you want, you go searching for it.”

Alexander, the public face of the NSA, has kept that stance even in the face of public pressure and questions from lawmakers. He said in October that the NSA could scale back the eavesdropping on foreign leaders, but that the indiscriminate interception should continue, even if the data is turned over to a third party.

I would love to give this hornet’s nest to someone else, to say: ‘You get stung by this.’ But don’t drop it, because that’s our country, and if you drop it, the chance of that a terrorist attack gets through increases,” he said.

Previous reports indicated that the outgoing Alexander would relinquish his position as director by March or April 2014. Administration sources insisted that plans for his departure had been in the works before the Snowden leak, but the agency has been dogged by question and criticism for more than six months.

The true tragedy in all this is the way the press has articulated [the NSA] as the villains when what they are doing is protecting the country and [doing] what we have asked them to do,” Alexander said.

Source: RT

‘Six Californias’ plan to split up most populous US state gets green light

Six Californias 1024x541 ‘Six Californias’ plan to split up most populous US state gets green light
A wealthy US investor got the go-ahead for his campaign to carve up California into six separate states, according to the Secretary of State’s Office. Critics call the plan just another scheme for the wealthy to hoard tax dollars.
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While initiatives to split up America’s most populated state have been floated since at least around the time of the Civil War, Silicon Valley venture capitalist, Tim Draper, may just have the clout and connections to pull it off.

Draper, who has made a fortune investing in internet startups, like Skype and Hotmail, believes that California is simply too populated and diverse to adequately address the demands of its residents, according to Draper’s plan.

Vast parts of our state are poorly served by a representative government dominated by a large number of elected representatives from a small part of our state, both geographically and economically,” the plan reads.

The initiative aims to carve up the state of some 38 million inhabitants into “six smaller state governments, while preserving the historical boundaries of the various counties, cities and towns.

With the current structure, California is “ungovernable,” Draper told USA Today.

“‘Six Californias’ allows a refresh,” he added.

If Draper’s plans for California become a reality, the bulk of the state’s wealth, centered on Silicon Valley, home to a number of household tech names, including Google and Facebook, and South California, which is the seat of Hollywood and the US entertainment industry.

Jefferson, North California, West California and South California would be forced to fight over a dramatically reduced tax pie.

Six Californias chart layout ‘Six Californias’ plan to split up most populous US state gets green light

Tax haven California-style?

Instead of redressing the myriad problems now affecting the citizens of California, however, Draper believes carving up the state is the answer.

In a recent interview, the managing partner for Draper Fisher Jurvetson said California’s poorest regions “are not happy” because the system is “not working for them.”

So if they had their own state, I believe all of those states would become wealthier. And I believe by managing their own state, they will become much more successful,” Draper told Time.

Although Draper’s plan encourages “regional cooperation,” the six-state scheme will also create competition between the states, which, according to the plan, “will lead to better and more responsive governance.

That means that states with high-growth sectors, like the proposed state of Silicon Valley, which in 2012 ranked eighth in global GDP rankings, according to the Center for Continuing Study of the California Economy, and the state of Central California, home of Hollywood, would have an unfair advantage when it comes to collecting tax revenue.

Indeed, critics say the ‘Six Californias’ campaign is nothing more than a scheme for making sure that the taxes of wealthy individuals like Draper gets ‘redistributed’ inside their own affluent neighborhoods.

The proposed initiative comes at a time when an increasing number of corporations – many of them from Silicon Valley – are hiding their tax dollars overseas, avoiding the tax man altogether.

The top 10 corporate tax avoiders happen to be tech companies:

1. Microsoft, $76.4 billion
2. IBM, $44.4 billion
3. Cisco Systems, $41.3 billion
4. Apple, $40.4 billion
5. Hewlett-Packard, $33.4 billion
6. Google, $33.3 billion
7. Oracle, $26.2 billion
8. Dell, $19.0 billion
9. Intel, $17.5 billion
10. Qualcomm, $16.4 billion
Source: Bloomberg, August 2013

Draper’s initiative will require at least 807,615 petition signers, or 8 percent of the total votes cast in the 2010 gubernatorial elections, by July 18 to make it on to the November ballot.


Source: RT

Gun production in US sets new record with 30 percent increase

Gun production in US sets new record with 30 percent increase Gun production in US sets new record with 30 percent increase

Gun makers in the United States produced a record number of weapons in 2012, as new government data suggests Democratic presidents may actually be a boon to firearms manufacturers.
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According to numbers released by US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, more than 8.5 million guns were produced in 2012, compared to about 6.5 million in 2011. That’s a 31 percent increase, and the highest number recorded since the agency began tracking gun production in 1986.

Interestingly, a 2013 study by the National Opinion Research Center found that gun ownership per household has actually declined to its lowest level in more than 30 years, so what accounts for the high sales? According to one gun advocate, it’s President Barack Obama.

“Barack Obama is the stimulus package for the firearms industry,” Dave Workman, senior editor of Gun Mag, a print and online publication of the 2nd Amendment Foundation, told Bloomberg News. “The greatest irony of the Obama administration is that the one industry that he may not have really liked to see healthy has become the healthiest industry in the United States.”

As noted by Bloomberg, more than 26 million were produced during Obama’s first term alone. Former President George W. Bush, a Republican, was in office for eight years before 28 million guns were manufactured.

Bill Clinton’s Democratic presidency, which saw the government mandate background checks for gun purchases, also boosted firearms makers, who produced 33 million firearms over eight years. During George H.W. Bush’s one term, 16 million guns were made.

Even gun control advocates find some truth to the idea that Democratic presidents help cause a surge in gun sales. According to Brian Malte of the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence, gun advocates have “demonized” Obama in order to sell more firearms to a smaller consumer base.

“We see the percentage of households owning guns declining,” he said to Bloomberg, “and that indicates that those who already own guns are buying more of them.”

Obama generally avoided the gun control debate during his first term, but he came out in favor of reforms after the Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre that saw 20 children killed by a gunman.

Although Congress has failed to pass legislation on the federal level, some states have forged ahead with their own gun control initiatives. California, for example, recently signaled its intention to implement its “microstamping” gun law, which requires manufacturers to imprint gun data on bullet casings when they’re fired. This has caused some gun makers to pull various models from the market.

Regardless, the latest government data seems to dovetail with the financial results of gun makers like Smith & Wesson, which experienced record sales during its 2013 fiscal year. As RT reported last year, the manufacturer said its sales of $588 million were a 43 percent increase over the previous fiscal year.

Whether or not such high-level sales can continue remains to be seen, but background check data seems to suggest 2013 it’s possible. The FBI conducted more than 21 million background checks related to gun sales in 2013, a seven percent increase over 2012.

Source: RT

Freedom to discriminate? Controversial Arizona bill takes step toward becoming law

Freedom to discriminate Freedom to discriminate? Controversial Arizona bill takes step toward becoming law

The Arizona state Senate approved legislation Wednesday permitting businesses in the state to refuse service to potential customers based on an owner’s religious beliefs, infuriating equal rights advocates who claim the bill legalizes LGBT discrimination.
Continue reading «Freedom to discriminate? Controversial Arizona bill takes step toward becoming law»

The bill, known officially as Senate Bill 1062, was approved by the Republican-controlled Senate, which voted along strict party lines. State Democrats proposed eight amendments to the bill in an attempt to stop what they decried as discrimination against the gay and lesbian community, but each of those efforts failed.

The most polarizing part of the bill reads, in part:

“’Exercise of religion’ means the practice or observance of religion, including the ability to act or refusal to act in a manner substantially motivated by a religious belief whether or not the exercise is compulsory or central to a larger system of religious belief.”

State Senator Steve Yarbrough, the bill’s sponsor, said he has been pressing for the bill because of a New Mexico state Supreme Court ruling that allowed a gay couple to sue a photographer for refusing to take pictures at their wedding.

The bill’s opponents say that Yarbrough and other social conservatives are trying to portray themselves as martyrs as they aim to pass a vague law that would leave widespread discrimination unchecked.

The Arizona Republic reported that the bill, which has a counterpart in the state House of Representatives known as HB 2153, was written by the conservative Center for Arizona Policy and Alliance Defending Freedom – a non-profit Christian lobby group that dedicates funding to the pro-life movement and has long opposed marriage equality.

The bill now heads to the desk of Republican Governor Jan Brewer. She has five days to sign or veto the bill. If she chooses to ignore it, it will automatically become law. While the governor has given little indication about which way she is leaning, Brewer has forged her reputation as a conservative on similar hot button social issues like immigration and abortion.

EJ Montini, a columnist with the Arizona Republic, said that SB 1062 sets a dangerous precedent for people of various backgrounds.

Essentially what it would do is allow people to refuse service to people who may be gay, who may be of certain religious affiliations – we don’t know, there could be a lot of exposure in this particular bill- only because they have a particular religious belief,” he said. “We really have no issue like this in Arizona and this is extremists in the legislature essentially appeasing zealots out in the community…It is the most ungodly way to view religious freedom.”

While Arizona would be the first state in the US to approve such a bill, other right-leaning states including Idaho, South Dakota, and Kansas have considered similar legislation. A number of the bills have come in response to the federal government’s recent announcement that same-sex couples will be given the same treatment as heterosexual couples under current tax law.

Source: RT

Colorado’s legal pot market far exceeds tax expectations

Colorado’s legal pot market far exceeds tax expectations Colorado’s legal pot market far exceeds tax expectations

Recreational pot sales were always expected to give Colorado some sort of economic boost, but the latest budget proposal by state Governor John Hickenlooper suggests the returns are going to be even higher than originally estimated.
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Released on Wednesday, the proposal expects the marijuana market in Colorado to bring the state around $98 million in taxes off of $610 million in sales, significantly more than the $70 million projected back when voters first voted to legalize recreational pot.

Since pot use became legal on January 1, Colorado has levied a 12.9 percent sales tax on all transactions, with medical marijuana taxed at 2.9 percent.

According to the Associated Press, Hickenlooper’s budget proposes spending the incoming cash on substance abuse programs and youth marijuana prevention. Specifically, $45.5 million would be set aside for youth prevention purposes, $40.4 million for substance abuse treatment, and $12.4 million for public health. Additional proposals were made for campaigns that spread the word regarding marijuana’s health risks.

“We view our top priority as creating an environment where negative impacts on children from marijuana legalization are avoided completely,” Hickenlooper wrote in a letter to legislative budget writers, the AP noted.

On top of the sales tax, though, Colorado has also implemented a 15 percent excise tax on the drug. The state intends to spend the earnings from this tax on school construction, and Hickenlooper expects to reach the $40 million level originally projected.

Pot sales have been strong in Colorado ever since shops began selling the drug, which is moving at even higher prices than predicted. As RT reported in January, sales exceeded $5 million in the month’s first week, and the state is even attracting visitors from other states interested in experiencing “pot tours.”

Meanwhile, the only other state that’s legalized recreational marijuana has also released its own projections regarding tax proceeds. As reported by the Yakima Herald, Washington is expected to rake in $190 million in pot taxes over a four-year period beginning in 2015. As in Colorado, those numbers are subject to revision once consumers can actually get their hands on the product.

“Voters and state lawmakers around the country are watching how this system unfolds in Colorado, and the prospect of generating significant revenue while eliminating the underground marijuana market is increasingly appealing,” Mason Tvert, of the Marijuana Policy Project advocacy group, told the AP.

While other states continue to forge their own path on pot – Alaska will vote on legalization this August, as may Oregon and Washington, DC – 18 congressional members recently petitioned the White House in an attempt to reclassify marijuana or simply remove it from the illegal substances list. President Barack Obama had previously ruled out unilateral action on the matter, though these members believe it’s within his power to have the Justice Department take action.


Source: RT

Clapper admits NSA should have been ‘transparent from the outset’ on surveillance

james clapper nsa Clapper admits NSA should have been ‘transparent from the outset’ on surveillance

The Director of National Intelligence has admitted that, in hindsight, the US intelligence community would have been smarter to disclose some details about how telephone records belonging to millions of Americans have been collected for years.
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Perhaps more than any other Obama administration official, James Clapper has been the target of the most criticism, sarcasm, and outright fury since Edward Snowden leaked a trove of classified National Security Agency documents. He has staunchly defended the government’s interpretation of section 215 of the Patriot Act, under which it argues that secret collection of phone data is legal.

Now, in an exclusive interview with The Daily Beast, Clapper appears to have admitted that many of the problems currently plaguing intelligence community are self-inflicted and could have been avoided.

I probably shouldn’t say this, but I will,” Clapper said Monday. “Had we been transparent about this from the outset right after 9/11 – which is the genesis of the 215 program – and said both to the American people and to their elected representatives, we need to cover this gap, we need to make sure this never happens to us again, so here is what we are going to set up, here is how it’s going to work, and why we have to do it, and here are the safeguards…We wouldn’t have had the problem we had.”

The director went on to say that the Snowden leaks has been a painful learning experience, adding that the ongoing public debate about security vs. privacy would not be going on had the government been forthright with the American people after the terrorist attacks on September 11.

What did us in here, what worked against us was this shocking revelation,” he said. “I don’t think it would be of any greater concern to most Americans than fingerprints. Well people kind of accept that because they know about it. But had we been transparent about it and say here’s one more thing we have to do as citizens for the common good, just like we have to go to airports two hours early and take our shoes off, all the other things we do for the common good, this is one more thing.”

Clapper was a prominent target of critics of domestic surveillance and the press at large because of his claim at a congressional hearing months before the Snowden leak that the government does not collect information on millions of Americans. The response to that question, posed by longtime NSA opponent Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore), has led legislators and privacy advocates calling on Obama to fire Clapper and reform the surveillance apparatus.

Since his embarrassing misstep was first revealed Clapper has made public scores of documents and opinions written by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which has consistently authorized the phone collection program. He told The Daily Beast those pages are proof that Section 215 is not an unchecked imposition on Americans’ civil liberties.

For me it was not some massive assault on civil liberties and privacy because of what we actually do and the safeguards that are put on this,” he said. “To guard against perhaps these days a low probability but a very (high) impact thing if it happens…I buy fire insurance ever since I retired, the wife and I bought a house out here and we buy fire insurance every years. Never had a fire. But I am not gonna quit buying my fire insurance, same kind of thing.”

Clapper’s admission Monday that national security officials would have been better served to be more open about domestic snooping was welcomed by his usual critics. Ben Wizner, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Speech, Privacy and Technology Project who also serves as legal counsel to Edward Snowden, said the director’s comments are fair.

If Clapper is suggesting that the American people should have been consulted before the NSA engaged in a mass phone call tracking program, I empathetically agree,” he told the Daily Beast. “Whether we would have consented to that at the time will never be known, we are now having a debate in Congress and in the courts that we should have had then.”

As for why Clapper told a congressional hearing that the NSA was not collecting data on Americans, the intel chief says he “misunderstood” the question.

Source: RT

‘Ambassadors for Dummies’: Obama’s payback diplomatic posts make mockery of foreign service

obama diplomatic posts appointees ‘Ambassadors for Dummies’: Obama’s payback diplomatic posts make mockery of foreign service

The Obama administration is under fire for doling out an unprecedented number of plum diplomatic postings to political appointees, many of which go to top dollar campaign contributors, sidelining career diplomats.
Continue reading «‘Ambassadors for Dummies’: Obama’s payback diplomatic posts make mockery of foreign service»

One former ambassador called it the selling of public offices. Another State Department vet blasted it as a patronage practice reflective “of banana republics, dictatorships and two-bit monarchies.”

But the institution of thanking big presidential campaign donors with top posts in diplomatic missions is very American and very real.

The American Foreign Service Association (AFSA), which boasts 16,400 current and retired diplomats among its ranks, says the number of political appointees serving ambassadorships hit a staggering 37 percent, AFP reports.

US state department 1 ‘Ambassadors for Dummies’: Obama’s payback diplomatic posts make mockery of foreign service

While Obama entered office promising to limit the practice, the State Department’s professional association says the rate of political appointees reached an unprecedented level of 53 percent, once Obama began serving his second term in January 2013.

Under previous administrations, Republican and Democrat alike, that rate fluctuated between 27 and 38 percent.

“It is a real concern for career diplomats,” AFSA president Robert Silverman told AFP.

“We want a debate about qualifications, and not about political influence or donations.”

The organization opted not to discuss specific cases but lists all the White House’s “political” appointees to head foreign missions, including Britain, Canada, China, the European Union, Germany, Japan, Saudi Arabia and the United Nations.

According to a July report in the Guardian, for 10 out of 12 sought-after postings in Europe, the Caribbean or Asia, the average amount raised by each donor is $1.79 million.

cynthia stroum 2 202x300 ‘Ambassadors for Dummies’: Obama’s payback diplomatic posts make mockery of foreign service“All these people want to go to places where the lifestyle issues [are pleasant], and to some extent that produces this notion that life in these western European embassies is like Perle Mesta,” Thomas Pickering, who recently led the investigation into lethal attacks on the US embassy in Libya and represented the US at the United Nations, told The Guardian at the time. Mesta, the US Ambassador to Luxembourg from 1949–53, picked up the sobriquet “hostess with the mostest” for the lavish parties she threw.

But if Mesta made her name on her soirees, a recent Obama former ambassador to Luxemburg, Cynthia Stroum, left the diplomatic mission in disarray. Stroum, a Seattle venture capitalist who ingratiated herself with the Obama administration as a campaign “bundler” – a wealthy fund-raiser who bundle contributions from multiple donors – was not nearly as generous with her diplomatic staff.

In February 2011, she was forced to step down from the post after a scathing State Department report said she brought “major elements of Embassy Luxembourg to a state of dysfunction.”

After Stroum created an atmosphere which was viewed as “aggressive, bullying, hostile and intimidating,” staffers asked for transfers to war-torn Afghanistan and Iraq rather than stay on at the cushy European embassy.

Following Stroum’s dismissal, the State Department decided to stop issuing such de facto reports on ambassadors.

During Obama’s first term, other political appointees in Malta, Luxembourg, Kenya and the Bahamas were also forced to step down over management issues, the UK’s Independent newspaper reports.

Innocents abroad

Max Baucus, the long serving US senator from Montana, is slated to replace Gary Locke as US ambassador to China. During his confirmation hearing, Baucus admitted to lawmakers: “I am no real expert on China.”

max baucus 3 ‘Ambassadors for Dummies’: Obama’s payback diplomatic posts make mockery of foreign service


Baucus, the former head of the Senate Finance Committee with decades of legislative experience in matters of trade, will at least be aware of US economic and political interests regarding China and the strategically vital region.

Other Obama appointees have inspired far less confidence among congress and talking heads alike.

George Tsunis, CEO of Chartwell Hotels, who raised about $1.3 million for Obama and the Democratic Party, raised more than a few eyebrows at his hearing to be confirmed as ambassador to Norway.

Having admitted he’d never actually visited the country, he then went on to refer to Prime Minister Erna Solberg as president of the country and suggested that the conservative Progress Party, which is part of the ruling coalition, was a “fringe element” that “spewed hatred.”
colleen bell 4 235x300 ‘Ambassadors for Dummies’: Obama’s payback diplomatic posts make mockery of foreign serviceObama’s pick for US envoy to Hungary, Colleen Bell, fared no better. Having served as a producer for the TV soap opera The Bold and the Beautiful, Bell was unable to answer fundamental questions regarding US strategic interests in Hungary.

When the painfully awkward confirmation session concluded, US Senator John McCain said with a sarcastic grin: “I have no more questions for this incredibly highly qualified group of nominees.”

Writing for Politico, James Bruno, a retired Foreign Service officer, noted the clear bilateral experience gap.

“For the purposes of comparison, Norway’s ambassador to the Washington is a 31-year Foreign Ministry veteran. Hungary’s ambassador is an economist who worked at the International Monetary Fund for 27 years,” he said.

Bruno said you can chalk up the resume imbalance to one simple fact: “The United States is the only industrialized country to award diplomatic posts as political spoils, often to wealthy campaign contributors in an outmoded system that rivals the patronage practices of banana republics, dictatorships and two-bit monarchies.”

If that were not enough, Noah Bryson Mamet, who was picked to be US ambassador to Argentina, shocked the Senate Foreign Relations Committee earlier this month by admitting he had never actually been to the country and could not speak Spanish.

Liberal satirist from the Daily Show Jon Stewart was quick to mock Obama’s less-than-qualified appointees.

“Is there a rule that ambassadors can’t have set foot in the country they’re going to ambassador? Would it ruin the surprise?” he said, noting that all three had raised large sums for Obama’s campaign.

The Republican National Committee heaped more scorn on the picks by releasing the “Ambassadors for Dummies” guide.

The guide says step one requires you to “bundle hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Obama campaign.” The envoy-to-be is then asked to “find the country of your appointment on a map “and“visit the country. For at least one day.”
Tom Korologos, who served as US Ambassador to Belgium under George W. Bush, told the Independent he was “amazed” the State Department was letting these people go so unprepared.

“When I went up for confirmation as ambassador to Belgium, I knew more about Belgium than the Belgians did,” he said.

But despite the disdain McCain and other Republicans have shown, Ronald Neumann, president of the American Academy of Diplomacy who once served as envoy to Afghanistan, told NPR both sides are responsible for the mess.

“There is a law, which both parties ignore, about ambassadors needing to be qualified: the Foreign Service Act of 1980,” Neumann points out. “People still get through even if they are manifestly not qualified.”

Source: RT

New Mexico nuclear waste site has ‘radiological event’

new mexico nuclear leak New Mexico nuclear waste site has ‘radiological event’

Officials are monitoring the levels of airborne radiation at the deep underground facility in southeastern New Mexico where the US government disposes of its low-grade nuclear waste.

Continue reading «New Mexico nuclear waste site has ‘radiological event’»

Air samples were taken around the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant (WIPP) after a monitoring system detected traces of radiation on the underground levels of the facility around 11:30 pm Friday night, the US Department of Energy said in a news release.
The 139 workers above ground at the time of the incident were ordered Saturday to remain where they were as a precaution. None of the employees tested positive for radioactive contamination, and all non-essential personnel were released, Department of Energy spokesman Roger Nelson said.

Nelson said the cause of the leak remains a mystery, since inspection crews have not yet gone underground. He added that he was not sure when that would happen.

Surface samples show no sign of radiation, thus suggesting the leak was “not significant,” he said.

But officials aren’t taking any chances.

“We are going to take measurements and make sure we understand it” before sending down a team, Nelson said.

US Rep. Steve Pearce issued a statement, saying: “WIPP has acted quickly and cautiously to ensure the safety of personnel and the local community.”

The incident comes on the heels of an underground truck fire at the facility that prompted an evacuation. Six workers were treated for smoke inhalation on Feb. 5.

Asked if the incidents were related, Nelson said: “I just can’t think of a scenario where there would be a relationship.”

WIPP is the country’s only deep nuclear waste facility. It takes plutonium-contaminated waste from Los Alamos National Laboratory and other federal nuclear projects.

It is located approximately 26 miles (42 kilometers) east of Carlsbad, New Mexico, in a region known as the southeastern New Mexico nuclear corridor, which also includes the National Enrichment Facility near Eunice.

Source: RT


Sen Rand Paul sues President Obama over NSA call surveillance

rand paul suit nsa Sen Rand Paul sues President Obama over NSA call surveillance

US Senator Rand Paul has filed a class-action lawsuit against the Obama administration and the National Security Agency seeking to halt the NSA’s vast data-surveillance program.
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Paul, a Kentucky Republican and toast of the tea party movement, promised a “historic” fight against the NSA when he announced the suit had been filed Wednesday at a press conference. He was joined by Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s former attorney general, and Matt Kibbe, the president and CEO of the tea party-affiliated FreedomWorks. Bruce Fein, a Reagan administration attorney, is one of the lawyers on the case.

The suit challenges the constitutionality of the NSA program that collects metadata on US citizens’ phone calls.

There’s a huge and growing swell of protest in this country of people who are outraged that their records are being taken without suspicion, without a judge’s warrant, and without individualization,” Paul said.

I’m not against the NSA, I’m not against spying, I’m not against looking at phone records,” he went on. “I just want you to go to a judge, have an individual’s name and [get] a warrant. That’s what the Fourth Amendment says.”

Paul began telling the press about the lawsuit weeks ago. This, along with a 13-hour filibuster on drone activity inside the US delivered in March 2013, has fueled expectations that Paul will be among the Republican presidential candidates in 2016.

Today we ask the question for every phone user in America: can a single warrant allow the government to collect all your records, all the time?” Paul said in a statement Wednesday. “I don’t think so.”

The Obama administration has consistently maintained the data collection program, first unveiled last year by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, is legal. The 15 judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court have reauthorized the data collection program every 90 days since 2006. In 1979 the US Supreme Court ruled that metadata – including the time of a call, its duration, and numbers dialed – is not protected by the Fourth Amendment.

We remain confident that the program is legal, as at least 15 judges have previously found,” Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said Wednesday in response to Senator Paul’s announcement.

In December federal Judge Richard Leon ruled that the surveillance program is likely unconstitutional, deeming the technology “almost Orwellian.”

I cannot imagine a more ‘indiscriminate’ and ‘arbitrary’ invasion than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying and analyzing it without prior judicial approval,” Leon wrote. “Surely, such a program infringes on ‘that degree of privacy’ that the founders enshrined in the Fourth Amendment.”


Source: RT

‘The day we fight back’: 6,000 websites protest surveillance, honor Aaron Swartz

snimok ekrana 2014 02 11 v 12.45.13 ‘The day we fight back’: 6,000 websites protest surveillance, honor Aaron Swartz

More than 6,000 websites, including Reddit, Tumblr, Mozilla, are taking part in an online protest against government surveillance. The action marks two years since website blackouts against SOPA and PIPA and commemorates Aaron Swartz’s death.
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The February 11 online protest, going by the title ‘The Day We Fight Back’, is supposed to see around 6, 200 websites each host a large banner at the top reading “Dear internet, we’re sick of complaining about the NSA. We want new laws that curtail online surveillance.”

The banner enables US internet users to contact members of Congress directly via email or a computer telephone call link using Twilio Voice. They would then be able to ask legislators to oppose the FISA Improvements Act, which would strengthen the NSA surveillance legality and to support the USA Freedom Act, that would, conversely, curb the domestic surveillance power of intelligence agencies.

As for website visitors from outside US, they are urged to sign a petition in support of the principles against mass surveillance. The petition has already been signed by more than 26,000 people.

In addition, everyone is encouraged to change their social networks’ profile pictures, adding a #STOPTHENSA tag to them.

“Together we will push back against powers that seek to observe, collect, and analyze our every digital action,” states the movement’s website. “Together, we will make it clear that such behavior is not compatible with democratic governance. Together, if we persist, we will win this fight.”

The protests are not confined to the instantaneous, infinite and easily accessible realm of cyberspace. Over a dozen protest events are taking place worldwide from Denmark, Costa Rica and Serbia to Stockholm, with street theater taking place in some US cities. San Francisco is seeing masses of people aiding in the projection of an anti-surveillance image onto the side of an AT&T building as a speech is given by one of its former technicians, whistleblower Mark Klein.

The day of online protest is “in celebration of the win against SOPA and PIPA two years ago.” Back then thousands of websites, including Wikipedia, Reddit and Flickr, went ‘dark’ to protest the bills, which were supposedly written to protect copyrighted material and which many believed would cripple the freedom of the internet.

The Day We Fight Back is also in memory of Aaron Swartz, a 26 year-old information transparency activist, who took his own life just over a year ago, having faced a standoff with the government.

When he was just 14, tech prodigy Swartz helped launch the first RSS feeds. By the time he turned 19, his company had merged with Reddit, which would become one of the most popular websites in the world.

But instead of living a happy life of a Silicon Valley genius, Swartz went on to champion a free internet, becoming a political activist calling for others to join.

This isn’t something playing out on stage somewhere where big giants fight each other and you’ve got to sit and munch popcorn,” Swartz said in one of his interviews. “This is a fight you can join in. So if you go to domain progress.org and sign up, we’ve got actions every week. There are bills that are coming up that could crack down on internet freedom, companies trying to abuse their power. And it’s up to all of us to stop them.”

Aaron Swartz drew the FBI’s attention in 2008, when he downloaded and released about 2.7 million federal court documents from a restricted service. The government did not press charges because the documents were, in fact, public.

He was arrested in 2011, for downloading academic articles from a subscription-based research website at his university – with the intention of making them available to the public. Although, none of what he downloaded was classified, prosecutors wanted to put him in jail for 35 years.

Aaron Swartz ‘The day we fight back’: 6,000 websites protest surveillance, honor Aaron Swartz


Friend and Harvard law professor Lawrence Lessig, later described how the persecution had driven Swartz to the edge.

When he saw all of his wealth gone and he recognized his parents were going to have to mortgage their house, so he can afford a lawyer to fight a government that treated him as if he were a 9/11 terrorist, as if what he was doing was threatening the infrastructure of the United States. When he saw that and he recognized how incredibly difficult that fight was going to be, of course he was depressed.”

Civil liberties advocates are now pushing for Congress to reform the anti-hacking law the government used to pursue Swartz .

Parker Higgins from the Electronic Frontier Foundation believes there’s still a lot to be done before politicians realize such relentless persecution is unacceptable.

Unfortunately the government hasn’t changed its perception here,” Higgins told RT. “There was a proposal last year in the US legislature called ‘Aaron’s law’ that would address some of the biggest concerns that we have. But Aaron’s law still hasn’t advanced to the point where it’s passed or can be signed. In fact we’ve seen proposals to make our computer crime laws even harsher. And that’s something we need to keep working on until politicians who don’t have a great grasp of how technology works understand that this kind of persecution is unacceptable.”