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Posts Tagged ‘Obama

White House says just a coincidence CIA director is in Ukraine

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Nothing wrong with recycling the same old lies!

Sanctions have been the most visible sign of U.S. anger at Russia’s annexation of the Crimea region in southern Ukraine last month, reflecting the deepest plunge in U.S.-Russian relations since the Cold War.

Obama spoke to French President Francois Hollande about the crisis on Monday and praised Ukraine’s government for showing “great restraint” and working to unify the country, the White House said.

Spokesman Jay Carney confirmed that the director of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan, had been in Kiev over the weekend and decried what he called “false claims” leveled at the CIA by Russian authorities.

“Senior level visits of intelligence officials are a standard means of fostering mutually beneficial security cooperation including U.S.-Russian intelligence collaboration going back to the beginnings of the post-Cold War era,” Carney said.

“U.S. and Russian intelligence officials have met over the years. To imply that U.S. officials meeting with their counterparts (in Kiev) is anything other than in the same spirit is absurd,” he said.

According to media reports, Russia has urged Washington to explain what Brennan was doing in Ukraine.

Bobblehead politicians nod in agreement and sagely quote the nearest brass hat, “Peace is our profession”.

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Written by Ed Campbell

April 15, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Guardian and Washington Post win Pulitzer prize for NSA revelations by Edward Snowden

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The Guardian and the Washington Post have been awarded the highest accolade in US journalism, winning the Pulitzer prize for public service for their groundbreaking articles on the National Security Agency’s surveillance activities based on the leaks of Edward Snowden.

The award, announced in New York on Monday, comes 10 months after the Guardian published the first report based on the leaks from Snowden, revealing the agency’s bulk collection of US citizens’ phone records.

In the series of articles that ensued, teams of journalists at the Guardian and the Washington Post published the most substantial disclosures of US government secrets since the Pentagon Papers on the Vietnam war in 1971.

The Pulitzer committee praised the Guardian for its “revelation of widespread secret surveillance by the National Security Agency, helping through aggressive reporting to spark a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy”.

Snowden, in a statement, said: “Today’s decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government. We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognises was work of vital public importance.”

He said that his actions in leaking the documents that formed the basis of the reporting “would have been meaningless without the dedication, passion, and skill of these newspapers”.

At the Guardian, the reporting was led by Glenn Greenwald, Ewen MacAskill and film-maker Laura Poitras, and at the Washington Post by Barton Gellman, who also co-operated with Poitras. All four journalists were honoured with a George Polk journalism award last week for their work on the NSA story…

The Pulitzers have been bestowed since 1917, at the bequest of the legendary newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer who established the honour in his will as a means of encouraging publicly-spirited journalism. The awards have shifted and grown over the years to reflect the modern publishing landscape and today stands at 22 categories, including 14 journalism awards and seven gongs for books, drama and music. All the awards are administered by Columbia University.

Bravo! Stick that in your eye Mr. Constitutional Scholar Obama! Freedom of the Press still exists in a small brightly-illuminated corner of what has become entertainment media. The mass of what passes for journalism nowadays extends from pallid to putrid, an imitation of the life once generated by courageous writers and editors.

I’ve read the Guardian since early days based in Manchester – even then a focus on the world of principle and journalistic freedom that has been unrelenting. The best witness for that being the voices of death and destruction that try day in and day out to shout down this voice of reason and progress.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 14, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Angela Merkel denied access to NSA file on her government

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The US government is refusing to grant Angela Merkel access to her NSA file or answer formal questions from Germany about its surveillance activities, raising the stakes before a crucial visit by the German chancellor to Washington.

Merkel will meet Barack Obama in three weeks, on her first visit to the US capital since documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had been monitoring her phone.

The face-to-face meeting between the two world leaders had been intended as an effort to publicly heal wounds after the controversy, but Germany remains frustrated by the White House’s refusal to come clean about its surveillance activities in the country.

In October, Obama personally assured Merkel that the US is no longer monitoring her calls, and promised it will not do so in the future. However, Washington has not answered a list of questions submitted by Berlin immediately after Snowden’s first tranche of revelations appeared in the Guardian and Washington Post in June last year, months before the revelations over Merkel’s phone.

The Obama’s administration has also refused to enter into a mutual “no-spy” agreement with Germany, in part because Berlin is unwilling or unable to share the kinds of surveillance material the Americans say would be required for such a deal…

A senior US administration official denied the surveillance controversy would overshadow Merkel’s visit.

So, Germany isn’t spying on enough people to make it worthwhile for the White House to order diminished spying on Germans and their government. Not exactly a modern approach to democracy.

The “senior US administration official” – of course – is a liar.

RTFA article for history, details, the kind of info embraced by few journalists and even fewer editors.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 10, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Feds open Medicare to same-sex married couples

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Kathleen SebeliusAP Photo

The Obama administration announced on Thursday that same-sex married couples can qualify for Medicare hospital and physician benefits for the first time.

The decision, coming after a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that struck down a federal ban against same-sex marriage, allows the Social Security Administration to determine the eligibility of married gay applicants to Medicare, the federal government’s healthcare program for the elderly and the disabled…

The U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the government has begun the enrollment process for some same-sex spouses while handling requests for special enrollment periods from others. CMS oversees the $635 billion Medicare program. But SSA determines eligibility.

“If you’re in, or are a surviving spouse of, a same-sex marriage, we encourage you to apply for Medicare if you think you might be eligible,” CMS said in a web posting.

Overdue – and welcome – whether you qualify or simply are an American who believes in civil rights.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 3, 2014 at 8:00 pm

German cabinet agrees on $11.75/hr minimum wage

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Demonstration by Confederation of German Trade Unions for minimum wage

Germany’s cabinet agreed on Wednesday to a national minimum wage of 8.50 euros ($11.75) per hour – a flagship project for the Social Democrats who share power with Angela Merkel’s conservatives.

The minimum wage will take effect in Europe’s biggest economy from 2015 but will not cover minors, trainees and some interns. Some employers can continue to pay their workers less until the end of 2016 if they are covered by certain collective agreements…

The Bundestag lower house of parliament is due to debate the law in June before passing it in July. The Bundesrat upper house is expected to wave it through after the summer break.

Employer lobbies say blah, blah, blah.

Of the 28 states in the European Union, 21 have minimum wages. EU states without minimum wages tend to have smaller low-wage sectors than Germany and a bigger proportion of their workers are covered by collective wage deals between unions and employers.

Then, we have the United States where our courageous Democrats are considered too radical for Republicans and the rest of the right-wing crowd for offering a proposal that wouldn’t match inflation since the last update years ago – by the time the change took place. Assuming it ever gets past the Party of No in Congress.

Just one more moment to look back over the half-century or so since the end of WW2 and consider our victory in the War in Europe and what the losers have achieved compared to the winners.

Written by Ed Campbell

April 2, 2014 at 8:00 am

Snowden urges tech industry to protect clients, customers

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Edward J. Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor who leaked documents that revealed a vast network of surveillance by American government agencies, wants the technology industry to become serious about protecting the privacy of its customers.

Mr. Snowden, speaking Monday at the South by Southwest festival via videoconference, said the early technology adopters and entrepreneurs who travel to Austin every year for the event are “the folks who can fix this and enforce our rights…”

Mr. Snowden said that even the companies whose business models rely on collecting data about their users “can still do this in a responsible way.”

“It’s not that you shouldn’t collect the data,” he said. “But you should only collect the data and hold it as long as necessary.”

Hundreds of people sat quietly as Mr. Snowden spoke. Mr. Snowden, who faces criminal charges of espionage and fled the United States last summer, spoke from Russia, where he is living.

Ultimately, the tech industry can help fix the problem, Christopher Soghoian, the principal technologist of the American Civil Liberties Union said.

“Most regular people are not going to download some obscure security app,” he said. “They’re going to use the tools they already have,” which include Google, Facebook and Skype.

The technology community should pressure those companies to introduce security measures that are stronger and easier to use, Mr. Soghoian said.

We need services to include security by default,” he added.

Geeks or not, if you have sufficient experience online you’ve either learned to protect yourself – or you’re in line to be ripped off. Either by crafty crooks or your own government. For some of us, secure responses, cynicism born of years of emails from folks pretending to share lottery winnings :) have built in an attitude anyone stuck into the human race should have learned by now. There is no free lunch. The corporate database miners have a responsibility IMHO to provide more protection for the folks who aren’t geekified enough to care to learn about precautions.

Bravo, once again, for Ed Snowden. Nice to see a conservative and libertarian who remembers when those used to be qualities that included concern for your fellow human beings.

Written by Ed Campbell

March 10, 2014 at 2:00 pm

Is your banker ‘Dazed and Confused’ over White House assurances about banking for pot dealers?

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OK. So, maybe Dazed and Confused isn’t the pot classic that Up in Smoke is, but the cult coming-of-age film set in the ’70s featured enough grass to rank as Rolling Stone’s No. 2 “Stoner Movie of All Time.” More important, Dazed and Confused seems to perfectly capture the reaction to Friday’s announcement from the Justice and Treasury Departments aimed at addressing the biggest challenge facing the almost-legal marijuana industry today — lack of access to banks.

Banks have refused to do business with marijuana dispensaries operating within the bounds of state laws for fear of being prosecuted themselves. Federal law classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 drug on par with heroin, which means a bank doing business with a marijuana shop can be accused of money laundering and racketeering. This has left dispensaries in the 20 states and Washington, D.C., that allow marijuana distribution in a challenging position; they can’t let their bankers know how they make money…

Friday’s moves by the Justice and Treasury Departments gave many hope that the Feds were making significant changes to address this banking problem. Instead, the memos show that the industry is still dealing with a basic issue: Despite all the changes to state laws, popular support and President Obama’s recent remark that he considers marijuana no more dangerous than alcohol, marijuana is still 100% illegal under federal law. So, it’s no wonder you might be dazed and confused listening to the reactions that followed the release of the memos…

The Colorado Bankers Association calls this guidance a red light for banks, stating, “At best, this amounts to ‘serve these customers at your own risk,’ and it emphasizes all of the risks…Where does this leave the fledgling multi-billion dollar industry? Very much where it’s been.

Although marijuana entrepreneurs are increasingly comfortable starting businesses under permissive state laws and a federal “look the other way” policy, the federally regulated banking system needs certainty

Trish Regan ends the piece by trivializing it all as election year politics. As cynical as I am, I don’t share the politics of many of those at Bloomberg. I’d like to presume that Obama and Holder went to the trouble of calling for opening service to the pot trade to save folks a lot of hassles. That brings in as many or more votes than a John Boehner tap dance.

She and Matt Miller got into a heated discussion on camera over the piece and though they both wasted time trying to talk over each other, I think she made the most sense. Fact is – and I’ve checked with my personal community banker, again – your community bank isn’t anymore likely than a chain store bank to open an account for a pot dealer who’s obeying all the local laws until and unless they receive assurances that would satisfy the most anal regulator.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 18, 2014 at 8:00 pm

Belgian cryptography professor hacked by NSA – but, Obama and Congress say we only spy on enemies of the United States, right?

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Belgium’s federal prosecutor is looking into the likely hacking of noted cryptographer Jean-Jacques Quisquater by the NSA and its British counterpart GCHQ…

Quisquater’s targeting became apparent during the investigation into the hacking of telecoms firm Belgacom, shown by Edward Snowden’s leaks to be the work of GCHQ.

As in that case, the Université catholique de Louvain professor apparently fell victim to a “quantum insert” trick that duped him into thinking he was visiting LinkedIn to respond to an emailed “request” when he was actually visiting a malware-laden copy of a LinkedIn page.

“The Belgian federal police (FCCU) sent me a warning about this attack and did the analysis,” Quisquater told me by email. As for the purpose of the hack: “We don’t know. There are many hypotheses (about 12 or 15) but it is certainly an industrial espionage plus a surveillance of people working about civilian cryptography…”

Whatever the precise motive, on the face of it Quisquater is very much a civilian target — a professor emeritus, not a spy, a terrorist nor a member of government. It would be difficult for any intelligence agency to claim that stealing information from him is a matter of crucial national interest…

I’d love to see the Belgian federal prosecutors acquire sufficient evidence to indict the bloody NSA and the phonies who never cease their mantra of protecting us from the bad guys, “never bothering ordinary civilians – or companies with industrial secrets worth stealing”.

The intellectual and political corruption of our government never ceases to amaze. And I have been an activist and cynic for a helluva long time. I realize the two qualities are simultaneously generated by the history of liars who “defend” our Constitution by despoiling it with rationales for dishonesty.

Sometimes I think the worst villains are the liberal fops who achieve a certain percentage of progressive goals – followed by crimes against humanity. The truly overt thugs are only behaving the way we expect them to act.

Written by Ed Campbell

February 2, 2014 at 8:00 am

NY TIMES editor says Obama’s White House is the most secretive

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jill abramson

Former NSA contractor Edward Snowden helped The New York Times “keep the public informed on what I consider to be very important matters,” says Jill Abramson, the woman who has the final say on what constitutes “all the news that’s fit to print.”

As executive editor of the Times — the first woman to hold what has been one of the most influential positions in American journalism — Abramson sets the agenda. We talk to her about what she calls the “most secretive White House” she has covered as well as the newspaper’s “seriously flawed” coverage of the run-up to the Iraq War, which happened during her watch as Washington bureau chief. John Seigenthaler also asks Abramson about the future of print newspapers and about accusations that the Times is too far left.

John Seigenthaler: Let me dive right into the news and a little bit about the NSA and Edward Snowden. Daniel Ellsberg was quoted recently as saying that Edward Snowden was his hero. Do you see Snowden as a hero or a traitor?

Jill Abramson: I see him as a very good source. We have published many of the NSA and GCHQ (British intelligence) documents that came from Snowden. And so I view him, as I did Julian Assange and WikiLeaks, as a very good source of extremely newsworthy information.

Edward Snowden did help The New York Times keep the public informed on what I consider to be very important matters…

John Seigenthaler: Let me move on to another topic in the Obama administration. How would you grade this administration, compared to others, when it comes to its relationship with the media?

Jill Abramson: Well, I would slightly like to interpret the question as “How secretive is this White House?” which I think is the most important question. I would say it is the most secretive White House that I have ever been involved in covering, and that includes — I spent 22 years of my career in Washington and covered presidents from President Reagan on up through now, and I was Washington bureau chief of the Times during George W. Bush’s first term.

I dealt directly with the Bush White House when they had concerns that stories we were about to run put the national security under threat. But, you know, they were not pursuing criminal leak investigations. The Obama administration has had seven criminal leak investigations. That is more than twice the number of any previous administration in our history. It’s on a scale never seen before. This is the most secretive White House that, at least as a journalist, I have ever dealt with.

And do you think this comes directly from the president?

I would think that it would have to…

John Seigenthaler: Everybody has an opinion of The New York Times, so let’s talk about some opinions of the Times. And in particular, The New York Times is often labeled as left-wing, liberal. How do you respond to that?

Jill Abramson: I respond to it by saying I think The New York Times represents a kind of cosmopolitan outlook towards the world and to this country and this city that may strike, you know, some readers as liberal because we have, you know, paid a lot of attention to stories like gay marriage, but these are newsworthy currents in our society.

But it’s not liberal in the sense of being doctrinaire or tied to the Democratic Party in any way. You know, I’ve run many investigative stories and political stories that have made liberal political figures furious.

Folks confuse editorial policy with journalism and reporting. A mistake falling in the category of ignorance – and not limited to the United States.

This is just a portion of the interview appearing at america.aljazeera.com…The full interview will be on AlJazeera America TV, Sunday evening at 7pm ET/4pm PT.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 31, 2014 at 8:00 am

Independent review says NSA program is illegal and should end

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An independent executive branch board has concluded that the National Security Agency’s long-running program to collect billions of Americans’ phone records is illegal and should end.

In a strongly worded report to be issued today, the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board said that the statute upon which the program was based, Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, “does not provide an adequate basis to support this program…”

The board’s conclusion goes further than President Obama…The board had shared its conclusions with Obama in the days leading up to his speech…

The divided panel also concluded that the program raises serious threats to civil liberties, has shown limited value in countering terrorism and is not sustainable from a policy perspective.

“We have not identified a single instance involving a threat to the United States in which the telephone records program made a concrete difference in the outcome of a counterterrorism investigation,” said the report, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Post. “Moreover, we are aware of no instance in which the program directly contributed to the discovery of a previously unknown terrorist plot or the disruption of a terrorist attack.”

The politicians and pundits who say otherwise are liars, egregious and gutless, fools dedicated to Cold War ideology.

RTFA for beaucoup details, analysis – albeit as stodgy as expected.

From Obama to Mike Rogers, the conformity of cowards who prefer Overlords to oversight, continues as freely under John Brennan as it did in the CIA under Allen Dulles. From liberals to anal retentive conservatives, allegiance to anything-but-liberty is their only solution to the fear ruling their political lives as thoroughly as their dedication to corporate wealth.

Written by Ed Campbell

January 23, 2014 at 8:00 am

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