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Posts tagged ‘NSA electronic surveillance program’

Obama, Hollande Resurrect US-French Relations.


President Barack Obama on Tuesday tried to dismiss the notion that France has replaced Britain as the main U.S. partner in Europe, but it was clear during the state visit of President Francois Hollande that the two have the closest relationship between the nations’ leaders since Presidents Bill Clinton and Francois Mitterrand two decades ago.

Laure Mandeville, Washington, D.C., bureau chief of the venerable French publication Le Figaro, best captured this situation when she pointed out to Obama at his joint news conference with Hollande, “You have actually praised France very warmly today and granted our president the first state visit of your second term …

“Does that mean that France has become the best European ally of the U.S. and has replaced Great Britain in that role?”

Obama replied that he has two daughters who are “both gorgeous and wonderful. And that’s how I feel about my outstanding European partners. All of them are wonderful in their own ways.”

However, as Obama and Hollande went through a welcoming ceremony at the White House, their news conference, and a state dinner, reporters from France and the United States recalled the sharp tensions between their countries after the U.S. strike against Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in 2003.

The strong opposition by then-President Jacques Chirac to the Iraq offensive resulted in a modern-day low point of relations between Paris and Washington. In the United States, this was symbolized by the congressional cafeterias offering “Freedom Fries” in lieu of French fries.

All that was in the dim past Tuesday during the first state visit of a French president to the United States since 1996.

Hollande said Obama’s election as president in 2008 “had been welcomed in France” because “America was able to make something possible, to make progress possible.”

He went on to recall his decision last summer to stand with Obama on a strike on Syria, saying, “We were prepared to resort to force, but we found another option — negotiation.”

From France and the United States being “extremely attentive” in helping Lebanon deal with its massive influx of refugees, to his commitment to the cause of climate change, Hollande repeatedly underscored his solidarity with the American president.

The French Socialist president was warm and positive, even regarding the spy controversy by National Security Agency renegade Edward Snowden.

“Following the revelations [of European eavesdropping by the NSA] that appeared due to Mr. Snowden,” Hollande told reporters, “President Obama and myself clarified things. This was in the past.”

Hollande said, “Mutual trust has been restored, and that mutual trust must be based on respect for each other’s country, but also based on the protection of private life, of personal data — the fact that any individual, in spite of technological progress, can be sure that he is not being spied on.”

Obama’s response to Le Figaro’s Mandeville notwithstanding, there is a strong case to be made that Obama works more closely with France’s Hollande than with British Prime Minister David Cameron.

Where Hollande stood firm with Obama on Syria, Cameron was unable to join any military alliance against the Assad regime when the British House of Commons voted down his proposal.

In addition, it is obvious that France is now the key conduit in trying to help Obama craft a new U.S. relationship with Iran.

Hollande said as much when he told reporters: “Nothing prevented us from having bilateral contacts, and I had some bilateral contacts. In New York I received [Iranian] President [Hassan] Rouhani during the General Assembly. So it is perfectly legitimate for discussions to take place.”

Ken Weinstein, president of the Hudson Institute, summarized the Obama-Hollande friendship to Newsmax.

“Unlike President Bush, Barack Obama has a tough time turning foreign leaders into confidants — and his judgment, as when he chose [Turkish Premier] Erdogan as a preferred interlocutor, has been wrong,” Weinstein said.

“It’s clear that Obama and Hollande have a real and deep rapport. Both need each other — Obama for guidance on Syria, where his policies have failed, and to show that he does have European allies after Snowden, and Hollande, these days, to prove that he isn’t a laughingstock but a world leader.”

John Gizzi is chief political columnist and White House correspondent for Newsmax.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Rand Paul Sues Obama, NSA Over Surveillance of Americans’ Phones.


Image: Rand Paul Sues Obama, NSA Over Surveillance of Americans' Phones

By Bill Hoffmann

Republican Sen. Rand Paul said Wednesday he has filed his much anticipated class-action lawsuit against President Barack Obama and the National Security Agency over its massive collection of data on millions of unsuspecting Americans.

“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 outside the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia.

Flanking Paul were tea party favorites Ken Cuccinelli, the former attorney general of Virginia, and Matt Kibbe, president of FreedomWorks, Politico reports.

Cuccinelli, who unsuccessfully ran as the Republican candidate for governor, is serving as lead counsel for the lawsuit.

Kibbe said his group became involved “on behalf of our community of 6 million citizens nationwide, along with any American who has a phone. If you use a phone, you should care about this case.”

Paul, a potential 2016 GOP presidential contender, filed suit as a private citizen and is hoping the case will end up before the U.S. Supreme Court.

“I am filing a lawsuit against President Barack Obama because he has publicly refused to stop a clear and continuing violation of the Fourth Amendment,” a statement from Paul’s political action committee asserted.

“The Bill of Rights protects all citizens from general warrants.”

The Hill notes it’s the first time Paul has mentioned the president as a defendant.

Besides Obama and the NSA, the lawsuit names James Clapper, director of national intelligence; Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the NSA; and FBI chief James Comey.

Paul has been a frequent critic of the NSA’s trolling for metadata across the country and has conducted a drive to sign up 10 million participants in the class-action lawsuit through his campaign website and his political action committee.

Other cases challenging the spy agency’s information collection include that of legal activist Larry Klayman.

Politico reports that Paul initially directed potential class-action signatories to websites including RandPAC.com and to his Facebook page, which sent visitors to RandPaul2016.com. Signing up added visitors to his campaign’s email lists.

Paul is also is pushing Defendthe4th.com, a reference to the Fourth Amendment, according to Politico.

The suit criticizes the “mass, suspicionless, non-particularized collection, storage, retention, and search of telephone metadata.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Booz Allen: Snowden Targeted Our Firm to Get at NSA Secrets.


Image: Booz Allen: Snowden Targeted Our Firm to Get at NSA Secrets Booz Allen Hamilton vice chairman Mike McConnell

By Elliot Jager

Edward Snowden went to work at Booz Allen Hamilton, the federal contractor, because he wanted access to high-level national security secrets, Mike McConnell, a Booz Allen vice chairman and ex-NSA director told  The Wall Street Journal.

In McConnell’s telling, Snowden began his national security career as a NSA security guard. He then entered the CIA’s information-technology section and was sent overseas. He had disciplinary problems, left for the private sector, and was posted in Japan.

He then decided he wanted to rejoin the NSA at the highest level of operations. Snowden broke into the agency’s computer system “administratively,” gained access to the answers to the admittance exam, then “aced” the test, McConnell told the Journal.

“He walked in and said you should hire me because I scored high on the test,” McConnell said.

But Snowden was dissatisfied with the level of the job that the NSA offered him.

“That’s when he turned,” said McConnell.

He said the “narcissistic” Snowden decided to work for Booz Allen because he wanted higher level security access than would have been available to him at the NSA.

“He targeted my company because we enjoy more access than other companies. Because of the nature of the work we do…he targeted us for that purpose,” said McConnell.

Booz Allen hired Snowden in 2013. The government had already vetted him— contractors do not provide security clearances, only the government does that, said McConnell. The company confirmed that his resume was accurate, though in hindsight, McConnell acknowledged, there were gaps in his history.

Snowden worked for the company only three months. He never entered a Booz Allen facility.

“The government invited him into its space for training. That’s when he did his download,” said McConnell.

Snowden transferred data he wanted to a storage disk, went back to Hawaii, and then left for Hong Kong.

As damaging as Snowden’s access turned out to be, he chiefly penetrated only the first two of four information levels. At the first level, though, he gained information to the FISA court order authorizing NSA eavesdropping.

At the second level Snowden was able to access intelligence reports from around the world— though how the information was collected was basically shielded. McConnell said Snowden had very little access to the third tier, and almost none at all to the top level.

With all that, said McConnell, Snowden compromised more intelligence capability than any previous spy.

Director of National Intelligence James Clapper previously described Snowden’s disclosures as the “most damaging theft of intelligence information in our history,” according to the Journal.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Dinesh D’Souza: Today’s US Government Would Terrify Founders.


Dinesh D’Souza — who made a documentary critical of President Barack Obama and has since been indicted for arranging excessive campaign contributions — says he is just one of many being penalized for criticizing Obama, and says the Founding Fathers would be terrified of what’s happening.

“There seems to have been a pattern of various groups critical of the president all getting inquiries and being subjected to a standard of scrutiny and review that had not been typical,” D’Souza told “The Steve Malzberg Show” on Newsmax TV.

“The federal government has a great deal of power, and now, with the NSA surveillance, with the government, in a sense, having access to your apps and your emails . . . the Founders would’ve been a little terrified about what this kind of power does to people,” D’Souza said Tuesday.

“Once you give the government this kind of power, what’s going to happen? How is that power going to be used?”

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Story continues below video.

D’Souza, a conservative commentator and best-selling author who made the 2012 documentary “2016: Obama’s America,” was indicted by a federal grand jury last month on a charge of arranging excessive campaign contributions to an unnamed candidate for the U.S. Senate.

The indictment says that in the summer of 2012, D’Souza reimbursed people whom he had directed to contribute $20,000 to the candidate’s campaign. An attorney for D’Souza contended his actions were “at worst” an act of misguided friendship toward the candidate.

D’Souza, 52, a former policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan and an affiliate of conservative organizations such as the American Enterprise Institute and the Hoover Institution at Stanford University, says the indictment will not stop him from speaking out.

“I can’t really discuss the case but I will say I really appreciate the outpouring of support, and I also want people to know that it’s in no way going to inhibit or deter my work,” he said.

“I’ve got a big film coming out this year, coming out for the Fourth of July. It’s just called “America,” and in a way it’s going to pick up the argument from ‘2016.’ It’s not about Obama.

“It’s about something much bigger than Obama, which is our country, but it’s about some of the divisions in our country and the forces that are building America up but also the forces that are pulling us down.”

D’Souza’s film is the second-most successful U.S. documentary, after Michael Moore’s 2004 film “Fahrenheit 9/11.” D’Souza also has written such books as “Obama’s America: Unmaking the American Dream.” 

He told Malzberg he had been warned about criticizing Obama.

“I was warned at the time, be careful, because there’s a little bit of a target on your back when you go out there and make yourself vulnerable in that way,” he said.

“People said, ‘listen, you’ve been a writer and a speaker for 20 years, but the people, the audience who buys books, is a limited market.’

“When you go out there and make a film that actually now has been seen by about 8 million people, you are in a very public way putting yourself on the front line, and I knew that. We’re at a stage in this country where we need to stand up for the values that built this country.”

D’Souza said he will defend himself “vigorously” at his trial as well as promote his new film in a bid to make it the No. 1 documentary of all time.

“We are going to try to give Michael Moore a run for his money with the new film and really try to knock him off his pedestal, so to speak,” he said.

“We’re certainly going to make a better film. We’re going to do our best to promote it, and if the Obama administration wants to help us, then that’s their prerogative.”

D’Souza says Hillary Clinton could be elected Obama’s successor.

“Certainly it looks to me that the baton may pass from Obama to Hillary. I’m not an expert on that; 2016 will be a critical year,” he said.

“Obama has, in a sense, talked at his inauguration about remaking America. That was his phrase, ‘remaking America.’ Well, America’s a big country. It’s not so easy to remake it in just eight years.

“Certainly, if you have 16 years, then you’ve got a much longer time to be able to produce the kind of fundamental change that I believe Obama is after. So, the 2016 election’s very critical.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Bill Hoffmann

German TV Claims NSA Spied on Merkel’s Predecessor Too.


U.S. intelligence spied on former German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder from 2002, NDR television reported Tuesday, adding fuel to the flames of a row over spying on incumbent Angela Merkel.

Schroeder, the Social Democrat chancellor who served from 1998 to 2005, appears on a list of names of people and institutions put under surveillance by the US National Security Agency from 2002, at the start of his second mandate as German head of state.

At the time Germany was opposing intervention in Iraq.

The NSA has been at the heart of a spying scandal which erupted last year.

US-German ties soured amid revelations leaked by former CIA contractor Edward Snowden that US intelligence agencies had eavesdropped on Merkel and collected vast amounts of online data and telephone records from average citizens.

The dispute has threatened to derail negotiations on a sweeping transatlantic free trade agreement known as TTIP.

Schroeder said he was unsurprised by the latest spying report.

“At the time the idea would never have occurred to me, but now it doesn’t surprise me,” he told NDR and the Sueddeutsche Zeitung daily.

US President Barack Obama in a recent interview assured that Merkel was no longer under surveillance.

Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged Friday that relations with Germany had gone through a “rough period” over the NSA snooping but said that shared interests would help put ties back on track.

Kerry, speaking in Berlin, said then that the United States took Germany’s anger over revelations that US intelligence monitored Merkel’s mobile phone seriously.

Asked whether the US administration would sign a no-spying agreement that Germany has demanded in the wake of the scandal, Kerry said only that Merkel and Obama were in “consultations” on the issue.

 

© AFP 2014
Source: Newsmax.com

Democrats Breaking with Obama on Key Issues.


Image: Democrats Breaking with Obama on Key IssuesFrom left: Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin and Martin Heinrich

By Melanie Batley

 

A growing number of Senate Democrats are speaking out publicly against a range of President Barack Obama’s policies in an attempt to distance themselves from theincreasingly unpopular president in the run-up to the 2014 midterm elections.

According to Politico, the lawmakers appear to have become unusually comfortable with criticizing the president, particularly since the State of the Union Address. 

“You had two or three Democrats in the Senate who made statements after the president’s State of the Union speech that wouldn’t have been written any different if they had been written by the [National] Republican Senatorial Committee,” Missouri GOP Sen. Roy Blunt told Politico.

Until recently, criticism of the president was concentrated among vulnerable red state Democrats, but now others are becoming vocal in their dissent on a range of issues including energy policy, Obamacare, the Nation Security Agency surveillance programs, and the Keystone XL pipeline. 

For example, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who isn’t up for re-election until 2018, has taken issue with Obama’s insistence in his State of the Union Address that he would bypass Congress whenever necessary to advance his agenda.

“I don’t think that’s what he meant. I swear to God I don’t,” Manchin said in an interview with Politico. “Could he have picked these words better? I would have thought he could have, I would have hoped he would have. But it came out offensive to a lot of people.”

Manchin is also part of a faction in the Senate that would approve construction of the Keystone pipeline, a group that is also critical of the administration’s positions on coal and energy exports.

North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, another Democrat who isn’t up for re-election until 2018, has called Obama’s energy policies “schizophrenic.”

Meanwhile, New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, a freshman, has been a persistent critic of the White House on NSA policy, according to Politico. 

“I think the framers did an incredible job of finding the right balance, so, we’ve gotten away from that. And when we get back to that, my outspokenness will diminish,” he said.

Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado have also been vocal about the need for changes to the NSA’s surveillance programs.

A number of Democrats have for months been attempting to distance themselves from the president on Obamacare, aware that the GOP is likely to highlight the program’s failures throughout the 2014 campaign. But as Blunt put it, it may be an uphill battle.

“The White House and the Senate leadership understand the need of senators in states where the president is not popular to differentiate themselves from the president when they can,” Blunt told Politico. 

“On the healthcare bill, it’s going to be particularly difficult because all of them voted for it, all of them supported it. And it’s not going to get better between now and Election Day.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Snowden Requesting Russian Protection After Threats.


Image: Snowden Requesting Russian Protection After ThreatsEdward Snowden’s refugee documents granted by Russia.

By Newsmax Wires

Edward Snowden, the fugitive former U.S. contractor residing in Russia under temporary asylum, is appealing to the local government for protection after receiving threats against his life, his lawyer in Moscow said.

“He has no other option but to seek protection and ask for the situation to be cleared up,” Anatoly Kucherena said by phone today. “There are worries and alarm about statements and actions on the part of some officials.”

Latest: Is Snowden a Hero or Traitor – Vote in Urgent PollKucherena, who has represented Snowden’s interests in Russia since he sought refuge last July after leaking classified National Security Agency documents, pointed to reports on Buzzfeed this month that contained threats made by unidentified U.S. officials. Two days ago, Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican and the House Intelligence Committee chairman, described the 30-year-old American as “a thief” who had possible Russian assistance and has “incredibly harmed” the U.S. military.

Snowden received a year’s sanctuary in Russia in August after a month-long confinement in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo Airport. After months of debate instigated by Snowden’s leaks, President Barack Obama responded Jan. 17 by endorsing action to ensure American citizens and allies that their privacy is protected while committing to few specifics.

Obama canceled a September meeting in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin after the decision to grant Snowden temporary asylum.

Life, Safety

“Edward really believes his life and safety are at risk,” Kucherena said, adding that his client currently has private protection. “Since he’s a temporary refugee, he has the same rights and responsibilities as any Russian citizen.”

Snowden hasn’t received notice from the U.S. that he’s being held accountable for any crime, according to Kucherena.

Rogers, the U.S. lawmaker, has offered the only public characterization of a classified Defense Department report on Snowden, saying it concluded that he downloaded about 1.7 million intelligence files while working for the McLean, Virginia-based Booz Allen Hamilton Holding Corp.

Dianne Feinstein, who leads the Senate Intelligence Committee, said in a joint appearance with Rogers that Snowden “may well have” had assistance. Representative Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican who’s chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, said the same day on ABC’s “This Week” that he thought Snowden had help.

No Asset

Russia isn’t controlling Snowden as an intelligence asset or offering him aid beyond a safe haven, Putin said Dec. 19. Snowden hasn’t been questioned about U.S. intelligence activities regarding Russia, according to Putin.

“I’ll tell you in semiprofessional language: we aren’t working with him and haven’t worked with him in investigative terms,” he said.

The U.S. has accused Snowden of theft and espionage for leaking documents to the U.K.’s Guardian newspaper and the Washington Post last year that unveiled the breadth of the NSA’s collection of Internet and telephone records.

Snowden, who first went to Hong Kong after leaking the documents, has said his goal was to call the public’s attention to programs he believed had expanded with little meaningful oversight.

“There’s a reason he ended up in the hands, the loving arms, of an FSB agent in Moscow,” Rogers said, referring to Russia’s security agency. “There’s questions to be answered there. I don’t think it was a gee-whiz luck event that he ended up in Moscow under the handling of the FSB.”

Latest: Is Snowden a Hero or Traitor – Vote in Urgent Poll 
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