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Posts tagged ‘Washington Post’

Obama’s NSA Has A ‘Time Machine’ Voice Interception Program Called MYSTIC.


Washington Post: The National Security Agency has built a surveillance system capable of recording “100 percent” of a foreign country’s telephone calls, enabling the agency to rewind and review conversations as long as a month after they take place, according to people with direct knowledge of the effort and documents supplied by former contractor Edward Snowden.

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A senior manager for the program compares it to a time machine — one that can replay the voices from any call without requiring that a person be identified in advance for surveillance.

The voice interception program, called MYSTIC, began in 2009. Its RETRO tool, short for “retrospective retrieval,” and related projects reached full capacity against the first target nation in 2011. Planning documents two years later anticipated similar operations elsewhere.

In the initial deployment, collection systems are recording “every single” conversation nationwide, storing billions of them in a 30-day rolling buffer that clears the oldest calls as new ones arrive, according to a classified summary.

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Bulk methods capture massive data flows “without the use of discriminants,” as President Obama put it in January. By design, they vacuum up all the data they touch — meaning that most of the conversations collected by RETRO would be irrelevant to U.S. national security interests.

The call buffer opens a door “into the past,” the summary says, enabling users to “retrieve audio of interest that was not tasked at the time of the original call.” Analysts listen to only a fraction of 1 percent of the calls, but the absolute numbers are high. Each month, they send millions of voice clippings, or “cuts,” for processing and long-term storage. source – Washington Post.

by NTEB News Desk

Dalai Lama to Open US Senate Session With Prayer.


The Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of the Tibetan people, will give the opening prayer on the floor of the U.S. Senate on Thursday, the first time he has done so, reports said.

Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Robert Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, said he and his committee also would host the Dalai Lama on Thursday afternoon. The Tibetan holy man is expected to meet with House leaders as well, The Hill reported.

Senate Chaplain Barry Black usually opens the Senate session with a prayer.

The Dalai Lama, who first visited the United States in 1979, has been in the country for a few weeks, sparking a controversy along the way.

President Barack Obama met with the spiritual leader in the White House two weeks ago — their third talk in recent years, the Washington Post reported.

China, which angrily objected to the meeting, calls the Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959, a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” who seeks to use violent methods to establish an independent Tibet.

The Dalai Lama, 78, says he wants autonomy for Tibet and denies advocating violence.

During the White House meeting, Obama reiterated the U.S. stance against an independent Tibet but encouraged dialogue between the two countries.

“The president commended the Dalai Lama’s commitment to peace and nonviolence and expressed support for the Dalai Lama’s ‘middle way’ approach,” the White House said of the meeting, The Hill reported.

The Dalai Lama has appeared on Capitol Hill before for meetings with congressional leaders, and was awarded Congress’ highest civilian honor, the Congressional Gold Medal, during a 2007 ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda in an event attended by President George W. Bush.

In 2009, he focused on compassion in an opening prayer for the New York State Senate.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Cathy Burke

WSJ: GOP Making Bold, Massive Bid to Take Senate.


Image: WSJ: GOP Making Bold, Massive Bid to Take SenateScott Brown, left, and Ed Gillespie

By Melissa Clyne

In its bid to gain the Senate majority in the midterm elections later this year, the GOP is crafting its strategy straight from the 2012 Democratic playbook, according to The Washington Post.

Republicans are casting a wide net to pick up the six seats needed to secure a majority, putting up viable candidates in a plethora of states where they hope to capitalize on President Barack Obama’s dismal job performance ratings as well as the national furor over Obamacare.

“The key to the Republican strategy is making the next tier of seats [and recruits] as large as possible since a few candidates will flame out, some incumbents will prove tougher to beat than they appear, and the national political environment could shift several times between now and November,” the Post notes.

Republicans need to win six new seats to flip the current Democratic majority of 55-to-45. In the current political climate, they are expected to gain between four and seven seats, according to the non-partisan Rothenberg Political Report. 

States where the GOP can prevail include Alaska, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Arkansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, Virginia, and possibly Minnesota. Five of the vulnerabilities stem from retirement announcements by Democratic senators Max Baucus of Montana, Carl Levin of Michigan, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, and South Dakota’s Tim Johnson.

Midterm elections are historically unkind to the sitting president’s party. Add to that the hysteria over a botched healthcare law rollout and millions of Americans receiving notices of canceled insurance plans and it’s a recipe for an ouster.

According to the Wall Street Journal, five states Obama won in 2012 — Colorado, Iowa, Michigan, Virginia, and New Hampshire — are now considered vulnerabilities.

In Virginia, former Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie should be “a very credible contender who can raise considerable money,” according to the Rothenberg Report, and former Massachusetts Sen. Scott Brown trails New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen by just three points and he hasn’t even announced whether he intends to run.

“I’d be more worried if I were a Democrat than if I was a Republican,” Rothenberg Report editor Stuart Rothenberg told the Journal. “The Republicans’ prospects in the existing targets are improving because of the president’s approval ratings, and they are continuing to put other races on the board.”

By offering voters strong GOP alternatives in a variety of states, even those historically blue, Republicans hope that hijacking the Democrats 2012 strategy proves to be a winner.

“One thing’s for sure,” political columnist Chris Cillizza writes in the Post. “If they make it over the top this November, Senate Republicans should send their Democratic counterparts a nice thank you gift for showing them the way.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Big Medicaid Changes in 2014 Under Obamacare.


Millions of Americans who consider themselves able-bodied and middle class will in 2014 find themselves covered by a remodeled Medicaid program that previously had the image of serving the poor and disabled.

People who live in the District of Columbia and the 25 states which have expanded Medicaid coverage under the Affordable Care Act will see Medicaid taking on a wider role in providing healthcare, The Washington Post reported.

From Wednesday, anyone in those places with an individual income of less than $15,856 a year, including childless adults, as well as families with earnings below $32,499 will be eligible for Medicaid coverage. Among those likely to seek Medicaid will be the unemployed, lower-paid workers, those just entering the job market and retirees who do not yet qualify for Medicare.

In states where Medicaid has not been expanded it will cover its usual catchment of children and those with very-low incomes as well as the elderly poor and handicapped.

The Supreme Court ruled in the summer of 2013 that the Obama administration could not compel states to expand their Medicaid services. The original plan was to use Medicaid expansion as part of a comprehensive Obamacare effort to provide all Americans with health coverage.

Starting in 2014, in all states, Medicaid will no longer factor personal savings — except for those in long-term care— in determining eligibility.

Medicaid presently covers more Americans than Medicare. Both programs were created by the Lyndon Johnson administration‘s Great Society legislation in 1965.

Matt Salo, who heads the National Association of Medicaid Directors, noted that “Medicaid — for all the good we think it does, and it does do a lot of good — does have a connotation,” of being a program for the very poor, the Post reported.

Opponents of the expansion say it will encourage dependency on the government. “It is very bad social welfare policy,” said Edmund Haislmaier, of the Heritage Foundation.

“You are taking people who are by and large young, healthy and perfectly capable productive members of society and encouraging them to become dependent on public assistance. This is the very last population you want to do that for.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

By Elliot Jager

Healthcare Expert: Congress Should Subpoena White House for Obamacare Numbers.


The end-of-year statistics released by the White House do not give a clear picture of how well Obamacare is working. Congress needs to subpoena the missing data and also to request statistics from the insurance industrywrites Avik Roy, a contributor to Forbes.com and a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute.

The released figures did not indicate whether insurers had actually received premium payments— the only certain confirmation of actual coverage, according to Roy.

Nor was it clear if a mechanism exists in the healthcare.gov system to pay insurers.

Other missing data, such as the share of healthy and young people signing up, could help clarify whether Obamacare has the potential of becoming cost effective, Roy noted.

The White House announced Sunday that 975,000 Americans had enrolled in the federal healthcare marketplace during December for a total of 1.1 million signed up in the initial enrollment phase, the Washington Post reported. 

Some 200,000 people selected health plans on Dec. 23 or 24 far- outnumbering the approximately 137,000 enrollees who registered through healthcare.gov during October and November, the Post reported.

All told, some 2 million uninsured Americans, including those who lost their existing coverage under the Affordable Care Act, have signed up via the federal HealthCare.gov site or through state marketplaces, officials said.

The figure falls short of the 3.3 million people who had been expected to register by the end of 2013, according to earlier Department of Health and Human Services projections.

By March 31, 2014 up to 7 million more enrollments are expected. After then the uninsured will face a tax penalty.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Elliot Jager

Mike Rogers: Snowden ‘Ran to Russia,’ Deserves No Amnesty.


Image: Mike Rogers: Snowden 'Ran to Russia,' Deserves No Amnesty

By Greg Richter

Two members of the House Intelligence Committee from opposing parties agreed Sunday that NSA leaker Edward Snowden should have stayed in the United States rather than fleeing to Russia.

Snowden addressed the British public via television on Christmas Day and talked to The Washington Post on Dec. 23. He said he is doing the work the government has failed to do.

“I’m not moved by the message at all,” Schiff said on “Fox News Sunday.”

“And I think there’s a real irony here that he’s giving this message from one of the foremost Big Brother states in the world, where he is living without any privacy, because there is no right or expectation of privacy in Russia whatsoever,” he said.

Schiff admitted that Snowden “has kindled an important public debate,” but he said it came from a “mixture of motivations.” Snowden should have stayed in the United States and been willing to stand up for his beliefs, he said.

Likewise, Rogers, appearing on “Fox News Sunday,” said Snowden “is somebody who had a troubled employment history, who ran to China and Russia.”

Snowden himself swiped at both parties in his Washington Post interview, in which he said he was “elected” to his post to “improve” the National Security Agency by Sen. Dianne Feinstein “when she asked softball questions” in committee hearings and by Rogers “when he kept these programs secret.”

Rogers argued that the programs that keep metadata on Americans’ phone and email communications were instituted after 9/11 because it was found that they could have prevented the worst act of terrorism on American soil. Members of relevant committees are briefed on everything, he argued.

Information is “well-overseen, locked away in a vault,” Rogers said, and there is oversight over who gets access.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Intelligence Estimate: Bleak Outlook for Afghanistan After US Drawdown.


Image: Intelligence Estimate: Bleak Outlook for Afghanistan After US DrawdownU.S. soldiers inspect the site of a car bombing outside Kabul, Afghanistan on Dec. 11

By Elliot Jager

When American troops leave Afghanistan at the end of 2014, the Taliban will gain ground and the country will probably descend into chaos, according to a U.S. National Intelligence Estimate, the Washington Post reported.

The gains achieved by the 2009 troop surge will likely be wiped out.

With Afghan President Hamid Karzai refusing to sign a security agreement that would authorize a contingent of American and international troops to conduct counterterrorism operations and continue training Afghan forces beyond 2014, the estimate takes a bleak view of Afghanistan by 2017.

This downbeat intelligence prognosis is not unanimously shared.

Pessimists see years of U.S. gains being squandered with the Kabul government ultimately losing the big cities. Even if several thousand troops stay behind to conduct counter-terror operations and for training purposes and even if Congress continues to bankroll the country. The intelligence estimate could bolster those who would like to see the U.S. pullout accelerated, the Post reported.

Optimists — including some in the Obama administration — say the capabilities of the Afghan army are being underestimated and that the Taliban will be pressured to sue for peace. One administration official said the intelligence estimate is intended only to highlight “potential upsides and downsides” to U.S. policy.

Stephen Biddle of the Council on Foreign Relations sees continued stalemate in the years ahead depending on how much financial backing the U.S. provides the Kabul government.

If Karzai ultimately agrees to a deal regulating the U.S. and international presence, the country would continue to receive billions in U.S. and other aid.

As of December 28 the number of service personnel killed this year in Afghanistan stands at 127 for a total of 2,301 since America’s longest war began in 2001.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Medicare Paying out Billions for Improper Hospice Care.


Over the past decade, the number of people discharged alive from hospice care has soared, partly because hospice firms are enrolling patients who are not actually dying, a Washington Post investigation has found.

These patients, whose care is paid for largely by Medicare, are more profitable since they require fewer visits and remain enrolled for longer, according to the Post.

Editor’s NoteObamaCare Is Here. Are You Prepared?

The Post’s analysis focused on hospice industry records in California, which showed that the proportion of patients released alive from hospice care rose roughly 50 percent between 2002 and 2012, while the average length of stay jumped substantially as well.

Profit per patient quintupled over that time, reaching $1,975, the records showed. Medicare reportedly pays about $150 a day per Hospice patient for routine care, whether or not the Hospice company sends out a nurse or health care worker.

According to MedPACthe Medicare watchdog created to advise Congress, that financial incentive could be costing billions of dollars a year. In 2011, MedPAC found that nearly 60 percent of Medicare’s expenditure of $13.8 billion on hospice services went to patients who received care for longer than six months.

MedPAC has recommended reforming hospice payments in order to eliminate the incentive for improper care, according to the Post. But so far, no reform steps have been taken.

Meanwhile, four of the 10 biggest for-profit hospice companies in the country, including AseraCare and Vitas, have reportedly been sued by whistleblowers for allegedly taking in patients who did not need hospice care.

And in May, the Justice Department joined in, filing suit against Vitas, the country’s biggest hospice provider, alleging false Medicare billings.

“The Medicare hospice benefit is intended to provide patients nearing the end of life with pain management and other palliative care to make them as comfortable as possible,” said Stuart F. Delery, acting assistant attorney general for the Justice Department’s Civil Division.

“Too often, however, we hear reports of companies that abuse this critical service by using aggressive marketing tactics to push patients into services they don’t need in order to get higher reimbursements from the government.”

AseraCare and Vitas have reportedly denied all of the allegations made in the cases.

Editor’s Note: Weird Trick Adds $1,000 to Your Social Security Checks 

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Lisa Barron

Clinton Foundation Mounts Year End Fundraising Push.


Image: Clinton Foundation Mounts Year End Fundraising Push

By Lisa Barron

Hillary Clinton says her husband, the nation’s 42nd president, will match all donations made to the family’s charitable foundation between now and Dec. 31.

“With so much work to be done across all of our projects, Bill has decided to personally match every tax-deductible donation to the Clinton Foundation until the end of 2013,” she wrote in an e-mail to supporters Monday, reports The Hill. “We have big plans for 2014,” the former secretary of state said in the message.

According to The Washington Post, among the Clintons’ top priorities at the foundation is an initiative to encourage more parents to prepare their young children for school, a program to help women and girls achieve “full participation in every aspect of our society,” and economic development programs to help young people get the skills they need to find good jobs.

The former first couple and their daughter Chelsea have been actively fundraising this year for the newly renamed Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton Foundation.

The family has started a high-dollar endowment campaign, with a goal of $200 million to $250 million so the foundation can live on when they are no longer able to raise money for it, according to the Post.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Snowden to WashPost: My ‘Mission’s Already Accomplished’.


In his first face-to-face interview since Edward Snowden found asylum in Moscow, the National Security Agency leaker told the Washington Post his “mission is already accomplished,” as news reporters are validating his revelations and NSA policies are being reassessed.
Snowden also told the Post’s Barton Gellman — one of three reporters to whom he has leaked documents — that he has “no relationship with” nor “loyalties to” Russia or China.
“If I defected at all, I defected from the government to the public,” Snowden said.
The oath of allegiance he signed was “not an oath of secrecy,” Snowden said. It was “an oath to the Constitution. That is the oath that I kept.”
He declared victory over the NSA.
“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.”
Snowden insisted he is “working to improve” not destroy the NSA. Only because congressional and judicial overseers had not fulfilled their mandate — had, in fact, “abdicated their responsibility” — did he feel obligated to act.
Snowden wants the agency to pursue individual targeting rather than vacuum huge amounts of data, he told Gellman somewhere in Moscow.
“I don’t care whether you’re the Pope or Osama bin Laden. As long as there’s an individualized, articulable, probable cause for targeting these people as legitimate foreign intelligence, that’s fine,” he said. “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.”
Snowden insisted that he tried to dissent from within recalling that he told colleagues that “we are collecting more in the United States on Americans than we are on Russians in Russia.”
According to Snowden, “What the government wants is . . . total awareness. The question is, is that something we should be allowing?”
Snowden had recommended to superiors that the NSA adopt failsafe measures to require a second set of credentials for any attempt to access security and auditing controls. “Sure, a whistleblower could use these things, but so could a spy.”
After he himself removed a treasure drove of secrets, the NSA put these controls in place.
Gellman described Snowden as someone who does not like to talk about himself; as an “orderly thinker with an engineer’s approach to problem-solving.”He said Snowden was “relaxed and animated over two days of nearly unbroken conversation, fueled by burgers, pasta, ice cream and Russian pastry.”

Snowden, 30, described himself as goal-oriented, “ascetic,” and as someone who does not “have a lot of needs.”
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© 2013 NewsmaxWorld. All rights reserved.

By Elliot Jager

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