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Posts tagged ‘Todd Beamon’

Obama Battered by Healthcare, Shutdown, Surveillance Scandals.


Image: Obama Battered by Healthcare, Shutdown, Surveillance Scandals

By Todd Beamon

From Obamacare to sequestration to Iran to the 16-day government shutdown that cost American taxpayers $1.4 billion, 2013 marked the year of the scandal — domestically and internationally — for President Barack Obama.

The president’s year was so riddled with troubles because “the Obama White House isn’t nearly as transparent as they had bragged during two different campaigns,” Tobe Berkovitz, an associate professor of advertising at Boston University, told Newsmax. “The White House is so tight with letting any information out that once negative information goes out, the press and the public start to take more interest in it because usually there’s such tight control on everything.”

But the worst problem of all is Obamacare, Berkovitz said.

“That affects everybody — and healthcare and a family’s health, along with their economic security, are the most important things to Americans,” he told Newsmax. “You start messing with people’s health and their healthcare, that gets right to the core of what people care about.”

Here are some of the major scandals that rocked the Obama administration:

The Obamacare Rollout

After delaying the mandate for large companies under Obamacare, President Obama decided to proceed with the mandate for individuals on Oct. 1. The rollout was plagued by a dysfunctional website, HealthCare.gov, which serves 36 states that lack their own exchanges.

The site has experienced a plethora of technological glitches — and HealthCare.gov was shut down its first weekend to address these issues, and again in November.

Americans continue to have problems accessing the site — and concerns surrounding whether applications have been processed sufficiently, even whether Americans’ personal information is safeguarded, continue to dog the website.

President Obama promised that the site would be improved by Nov. 30 — and then even that deadline was extended by a day. HealthCare.gov crashed during a visit by Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to a Miami hospital in November.

The glitches led the White House to postpone deadlines for Americans to apply for insurance that would start on Jan. 1 — from Dec. 23 to 11:59 p.m. on Christmas Eve.

The Big Obamacare Lie

In touting his signature domestic policy achievement, President Obama declared, “If you like your healthcare plan, you’ll be able to keep your healthcare plan, period.” He also said, “If you like your doctor, you will be able to keep your doctor, period.”

But millions of Americans have lost their healthcare coverage because the policies did not meet Obamacare’s requirements. The Heritage Foundation reported that 4.7 million insurance policies have been canceled or changed in 32 states.

The cancellations led Obama to apologize to Americans who lost their coverage due to the healthcare law and later urged Americans to not be discouraged in using Healthcare.gov.

But Americans have seen both their premiums and deductibles skyrocket.

Republicans continue to charge that Obamacare cannot be fixed and should be repealed. Last month, the GOP-controlled House passed legislation sponsored by Rep. Fred Upton of Michigan that would allow insurers to continue continue for another year selling policies that don’t meet Obamacare requirements.

It passed on a 261-157 vote, with 39 Democrats breaking ranks and supporting the bill. The day before the vote, President Obama promised that he would grant a one-year reprieve to Americans whose health policies had been canceled.

The Benghazi Coverup

The controversy surrounding the deaths of four Americans on Sept. 11, 2012, at the U.S. diplomatic mission in Libya spilled into 2013, as Republicans charged the Obama administration with covering up the deaths of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other U.S. citizens, including two former Navy SEALs.

News reports later surfaced that dozens of CIA operatives were on the ground during the attacks and that they were being polygraphed every month since January to determine whether anyone might be talking to Congress or the media.

The efforts were described in the news reports as intimidation — and even included threats that the careers of unauthorized leakers would be terminated.

Led by Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Sen. John McCain of Arizona, and Sen. Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire — all members of the Senate Armed Services Committee — Republicans relentlessly pressured President Obama to make Benghazi survivors available to Congress for questioning.

Several CIA personnel, including former contractors, gave a closed-door briefing to the House Intelligence Committee last month. They told lawmakers they were well aware that the 9/11 anniversary could be a flashpoint and could spur increased hostilities against Western targets during that period, Fox News reports.

The new testimony apparently countered the findings of the Accountability Review Board, which concluded that the Benghazi annex and the State Department “were well aware of the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks but at no time were there ever any specific, credible threats against the mission in Benghazi related to the Sept. 11 anniversary,” Fox reports.

That testimony has not quieted Republican calls for an investigation by a special prosecutor.

Five days after the 2012 attacks, Susan Rice, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, went on five Sunday morning talk shows and said that the incident began as a peaceful protest against an anti-Muslim film that was later “hijacked” by militants.

In addition, then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton explained in her congressional testimony in January that her department was unable to obtain reliable information as the assaults were unfolding.

This week, Rice called Benghazi “a false controversy” in an interview with “60 Minutes”on CBS.

The IRS-Tea Party Scandal

In May, a Treasury Department Inspector General’s report revealed that tea party, conservative, and religious groups had been singled out for special scrutiny by the IRS for their applications for tax-exempt status between 2010 and through the 2012 presidential election.

The scrutiny involved IRS agents placing groups with words like “tea party and “patriot” in their names on a “be on the lookout” list for additional screening of applications for tax-exempt status.

President Obama fired Steven Miller, the head of the IRS, who apologized in testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee, calling it “horrible customer service.”

At least three other IRS officials were replaced or were put on administrative leave.

Lois Lerner, who oversaw the IRS division that targeted the groups, invoked her Fifth Amendment right to avoid self-incrimination in May and refused to testify before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

She was placed on administrative leave with pay, and retired in September.

The IRS and the Obama administration were sued by 25 conservative groups in federal court over the additional scrutiny. An IRS agent told congressional investors in August that the agency was still targeting the groups.

NSA Surveillance

Widespread spying on Americans and world leaders was revealed in stolen documents that were leaked to news organizations in June by Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor.

Snowden, 30, who now is living under temporary political asylum in Russia, smuggled the classified information out of the NSA’s operations center in Hawaii.

The leaks disclosed that the agency collected billions of data on Americans’ telephone and Internet activities daily. The NSA began the surveillance after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks — and the activities were broadened under Obama.

Snowden’s disclosures prompted a maelstrom of criticism of the NSA and the White House.

They’ve even split the GOP — with Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Rep. James Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin, author of the Patriot Act, attacking the NSA while Rep. Peter King of New York vocally supported the surveillance efforts.

In a public hearing before the Senate Intelligence Committee, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that the NSA “not wittingly” collected data on millions of Americans.

Clapper later called the statement “clearly erroneous” and apologized to committee chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.

Seven House Republicans, including Sensenbrenner, have since called on the Justice Department to begin a criminal investigation into whether Clapper lied to Congress.

The firestorm led Obama to form an advisory panel that recommended this month that the NSA should have access to some records but that it should not be able to store them and should get court approval to search individual data.

The day before the report was released, a federal judge ruled that the NSA’s secret collection of telephone records was unconstitutional and that it violated privacy rights.

Budget/Sequester/Shutdown

Various budget battles with Congress dogged President Obama all year — from the Jan. 1 approval of the “fiscal cliff” deal to this month’s signing of the bipartisan two-year budget agreement.

The deal was sponsored by GOP Rep. Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Democratic Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, who heads the Senate Budget Committee.

In the interim, however, Capitol Hill Republicans fought against the deep budget cuts scheduled to take effect through sequestration. The cuts were expected to slash the Pentagon’s budget so severely that even outgoing Defense Secretary Leon Panetta decried them.

Other battles included the stalemate over defunding Obamacare in a continuing resolution to finance the government in which Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas spoke for 21 hours and 19 minutes against the healthcare law during a Senate floor debate and the skirmish over extending the nation’s debt ceiling, which led to a 16-day partial shutdown of the federal government in October that cost American taxpayers $1.4 billion.

The shutdown tarnished both Congress and the White House, with Republicans bearing the brunt of the ire from Americans in surveys. Obama did not escape culpability, either, as poll respondents attacked him for refusing to negotiate with Congress.

Putin-Syria

On the international front, President Obama was upstaged by Vladimir Putin in September when his Russian counterpart brokered a deal that led to Syria giving up its nuclear weapons stockpiles to international control.

Putin seized on an off-hand comment by Secretary of State John Kerry that Syria could avoid a U.S. missile attack by turning over the chemical weapons. The Russian president insisted that the deal would only work if the United States agreed not to use force.

The deal, signed last month, vaulted Putin into the world spotlight — Forbes magazine recently named him as the most influential person in the world. A Russian group even nominated the ex-KGB strongman for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Two days after proposing the Syrian deal, Putin slapped Obama again in an op-ed piece in The New York Times, saying Americans should oppose U.S. strikes in Syria. The article was published the morning after Obama made his case for limited strikes against Syria in a prime-time televised speech.

Iran

Critics continued to slam President Obama’s ineptitude in international affairs with the signing in November of the deal between Iran and world leaders requiring Tehran to curb some of its nuclear activities in return for $7 billion in sanctions relief.

The deal would lead to further talks on a final deal to ends Iran’s nuclear program.

Most Americans surveyed opposed the deal while Israel charged that it was a “historical mistake.” Republicans and Democrats blasted the accord as enabling Iran to continue its nuclear program while leaving the United States with less leverage.

Despite assurances from President Obama and Secretary of State Kerry that Iran would honor the agreement, a bipartisan group of 26 senators this month introduced legislation to toughen sanctions on Iran and compel the United States to support Israel if it launches a pre-emptive attack on the Iranian nuclear program.

Obama has threatened to veto the legislation.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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Karl Rove: GOP Will Capture Senate in 2014.


Image: Karl Rove: GOP Will Capture Senate in 2014

By Todd Beamon

Political strategist Karl Rove congratulated himself on Wednesday for getting 10 predictions right for this year — and he forecast that Republicans will keep control of the House of Representatives and end up with as many as 51 seats in the Senate in next year’s congressional elections.

For 2014, President Barack Obama’s “disapproval rating will end higher than this week’s 53 percent” in the Gallup poll, Rove said in an op-ed piece in The Wall Street Journal.“Republicans will keep the House with a modest pickup of four to six seats.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

“The GOP will most likely end up with 50 or 51 Senate seats (in the former case, keeping Vice President Joe Biden fully occupied for two years presiding over the chamber),” Rove added. “Control of the Senate may not be decided until December’s Louisiana runoff.

“Propelled by union contributions, Democrats will outspend Republicans overall in House and Senate races.”

Rove, the former deputy chief of staff to President George W. Bush, noted that among his successful predictions for 2013 were that Obama’s approval rating did fall “from 53 percent at year’s start to 40 percent this week. There was a new administration scandal, the most significant being the IRS targeting of conservative groups.

“And Obamacare’s implementation was indeed ‘ragged and ugly’ and ‘a continuing political advantage to Republicans’ as forecast,” he added.

On the flip side, Rove said that he missed the mark four times this year: “Unemployment hit 7 percent instead of 8 percent; Syria‘s Bashar Assad remains in power; Fidel Castro is still alive, and President and Mrs. George W. Bush got a granddaughter, not a grandson.

“In one instance, the results were half-right,” he continued. “The debt ceiling was raised, but Mr. Obama wasn’t forced to make spending cuts in return.”

Because of the continued problems with the Affordable Care Act, “GOP political divisions are giving way to unity” — a trend likely to continue next year, Rove predicted.

He is a founder of the Republican super PAC Crossroad GPS.

“Tens of millions more Americans will lose their coverage and find that new Obamacare plans have higher premiums, larger deductibles and fewer doctors.

“Enrollment numbers will be smaller than projected and budget outlays will be higher,” Rove added. “The White House will blame insurers and Republicans for the law’s continuing failures.”

But despite these Obamacare issues, the embattled Kathleen Sebelius “still” will be Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services by the end of 2014, Rove said.

Editor’s Note: Should ObamaCare Be Defunded? Vote in Urgent National Poll 

“Support for Obamacare will drop below 30 percent, causing congressional Democrats to clamor for major changes and delays,” he added. “The administration will resist most such ideas, except lifting the individual mandate penalty for 2014.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Jesse Jackson: ‘Duck Dynasty’ Comments Reflect ‘White Privilege’.


Image: Jesse Jackson: 'Duck Dynasty' Comments Reflect 'White Privilege'

By Todd Beamon

The Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. this week attacked the comments made about African Americans by suspended “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson — contrasting them with what Rosa Parks faced on an Alabama bus in 1955.

“At least the bus driver, who ordered Rosa Parks to surrender her seat to a white person, was following state law,” Jackson said on Tuesday in a statement published by theChicago Tribune. “Robertson’s statements were uttered freely and openly without cover of the law, within a context of what he seemed to believe was ‘white privilege.'”

Parks refused to obey the driver of a bus in Montgomery on Dec. 1, 1955, and give up her seat on a segregated bus to a white person. The incident led to the Montgomery Bus Boycott, a watershed event in the civil rights movement.

Parks died in 2005 in Detroit at age 92.

Robertson, 67, in an interview in the January issue of GQ magazine, said that he picked cotton with African Americans as a youth in Louisiana and never saw “the mistreatment of any black person” — noting that they were “singing and happy” and that they did not complain about white people.

The remarks, along with disparaging comments about gays, led the A&E cable network to quickly put Robertson on indefinite suspension from the filming of the show’s fifth season.

A&E said that Robertson’s views did not represent those of the network, which has always been “strong supporters of the LGBT community.”

“Duck Dynasty” is about a rural Louisiana family that makes duck calls. One of the highest-rated shows on cable, the program gets an estimated 14 million viewers every week.

While Robertson was slammed by anti-gay groups and others for his remarks, A&E’s move prompted widespread attacks by conservatives and Republican politicians — ranging from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal, a likely contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2016.

Jackson and his civil rights group, the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, wants A&E to keep Robertson on indefinite hiatus, the Tribune reports. Jackson’s protest included leaders of the LGBT group GLAAD and the National Organization for Women.

“It is unacceptable that a personality who has been given such a large platform would benefit from racist and anti-gay comments,” the groups’ leaders said in the release.

They also are trying to meet with network executives and officials of Cracker Barrel, which briefly removed “Duck Dynasty” merchandise from its shelves but restored them after consumer protests.

“We respect all individuals’ right to express their beliefs,” the company, based in Lebanon, Tenn., said in a released published by the Tribune. “We certainly did not mean to have anyone think different.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

GOP: All Americans Deserve Obamacare ‘Hardship’ Exemption.


Image: GOP: All Americans Deserve Obamacare 'Hardship' Exemption

By Todd Beamon

House Republicans stepped up their attacks on Obamacare on Friday — after President Barack Obama admitted that “we screwed it up” — charging that the healthcare law should be delayed for all Americans, not just those who lost their insurance.

“With this latest delay, the Obama administration is once again admitting that the president’s healthcare law is unworkable and unaffordable,” House Speaker John Boehner said. “Millions have lost the plans they liked, only to find themselves priced out of new policies with higher premiums and out-of-pocket costs.

“The administration’s action does nothing to address the problems at the center of the president’s healthcare law, or to help the families suffering its consequences,” the Ohio Republican continued. “All Americans deserve a hardship exemption from this train wreck of a law, and a focus on patient-centered reforms that will help lower costs and protect jobs.”

Late Thursday, the White House announced that Americans whose insurance has been canceled could buy “catastrophic plans” or avoid buying insurance altogether. The surprise announcement came just four days before the Dec. 23 deadline for Americans to choose coverage that will begin on Jan. 1.

The decision has roiled the insurance industry and sent the stocks of such major insurers as Cigna Corp., Aetna Inc., and Humana lower on Wall Street.

At his last news conference of the year, Obama admitted on Friday that “we screwed it up” regarding the botched rollout of the healthcare plan’s individual mandate on Oct. 1.

He continued to blame many of the problems with the rollout on technical issues regarding the HealthCare.gov website, which covers 36 states that lack their own exchanges.

“There are a whole bunch of things that we’ve been taking a look at,” Obama said at the White House session.

That was not enough for House Majority Leader Eric Cantor of Virginia and other GOP legislators, though, who have long attacked Obamacare as unworkable, expensive, and unfixable.

“Our entire healthcare system can’t be fundamentally changed at any given time subject to the random impulses of President Obama,” Cantor said in a statement. “How can anyone make healthcare decisions today knowing that the law may be unilaterally changed again tomorrow?

“Many Americans had good healthcare that they liked and could afford, but lost it due to Obamacare,” he added. “Absent affordable alternatives, these families are now being told to simply go without care for a year or buy a bare-bones plan that doesn’t offer them the care they need. Is that the promise of Obamacare?

“Republicans have consistently asked for a one-year delay of the mandates for all Americans, and put forward a proposal to allow American families to keep their health plans,” he said. “The White House actions clearly prove Obamacare can’t work as designed. It’s time for Obamacare to be delayed for all.”

Rep. Tom Price of Georgia, an orthopedic surgeon who is vice chairman of the House Budget Committee, said that “at this point, no one is particularly surprised at the Obama administration’s inability to govern in a coherent and orderly manner.

“But President Obama and his team are showing a remarkable level of disregard for how their decisions will affect millions of Americans and how Obamacare is harming real people in real ways.

“American families are doing all they can right now to plan and adjust to the fallout of Obamacare, whether it’s losing their current healthcare coverage or facing higher costs,” Price added. “Does the administration honestly believe it can simply paint over the damage it is doing with these sort of last-minute maneuvers? This law is fundamentally flawed.”

Rep. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee referenced her questioning of Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius last week during a hearing of the Health Subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee.

“We asked Secretary Sebelius point-blank what would be the next holiday surprise, and she was silent,” Blackburn, the committee’s vice chairman, said in a statement. “Yet, here we are with another major policy shift.

“The sad reality is that when the law takes effect come Jan. 1, more Americans will be without coverage under Obamacare than one year ago. What’s worse, the administration knew millions of plans would be cancelled, but the president kept repeating his solemn promises knowing they would not be kept.”

In another setback for HealthCare.gov, a top federal official told the House Oversight Committee this week that “high” and “moderate” security risks had been discovered on the site in recent weeks.

The disclosures by Teresa Fryer, chief information security officer at the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, bolstered claims by Republicans, technology experts, and users that HealthCare.gov was vulnerable to security breaches.

“There were two high findings,” Fryer said in transcripts released on Friday by Rep. Darrell Issa of California, the oversight committee’s chairman. “One high finding was identified in an incident that was reported in November.”

Of the disclosures, Blackburn’s Volunteer State colleague, Diane Black, said: “It is deeply concerning that, almost three months after HealthCare.gov was launched, we are still learning of new and serious security risks with the Obamacare website.

“The fact is, this program was never ready to be launched, and it is reprehensible that this administration would proceed with implementation when the security of millions of Americans’ personal information is at risk from cyber threats and identity theft.

“Obamacare should be stopped in its entirety, but in the meantime, the very least this administration can do is properly notify someone if the personal information they have entered into the website is under threat — something that the federal government is currently under no obligation to do.”

Black noted that the legislation she introduced this week would require the government to notify Americans of such data breaches.

“Until Obamacare can be fully repealed, we must do what we can to protect Americans from this disastrous and dangerous law,” Black said.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Ralph Reed: Boycott A&E for ‘Anti-Christian Bigotry’.


Image: Ralph Reed: Boycott A&E for 'Anti-Christian Bigotry'

By Todd Beamon

Conservative political activist Ralph Reed on Thursday called on the 800,000 members of the Faith & Freedom Coalition to boycott the A&E Network until “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson is reinstated to the program.

“Phil Robertson’s suspension is a brazen act of anti-Christian bigotry,” Reed, the coalition’s chairman, said in a statement.

ObamaCareYou Can Win With The Facts 

Robertson was placed on indefinite suspension by the cable network on Wednesday after he compared homosexuality to having sex with animals in a published magazine interview.

But Robertson has since received broad support from conservatives and Republican politicians ranging from former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin to Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal.

In the interview, Robertson “never represented his views and values as being those of A&E or the producers of ‘Duck Dynasty,’ ” Reed said. “He was specifically asked about his views on sin and God’s best plan for humanity — and he answered honestly, forthrightly, even directly.

“His comments were based on his faith in God, not animus directed at gays or others who might be different from him,” Reed added.

“To suspend Robertson under these circumstances is sanctioning him for holding Christian faith and beliefs — and it is a sign of a broader intolerance, bigotry, and discrimination against Christians that has no place in America.”

The coalition’s boycott efforts will also include telephone calls, email blasts, mailings, and text messages. Member are urged to write A&E executives to protest the suspension.

Reed said that he, too, wrote network officials over the matter.

“Sadly, A&E is in danger of destroying one of the most-valuable franchises in the television industry and offending 40 million Americans in the process,” Reed said. “If its management is smart, they will move swiftly to repair the damage before it is too late.”

ObamaCare: 
You Can Win With The Facts 

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Obama Task Force: Limit NSA Snooping on Americans.


Image: Obama Task Force: Limit NSA Snooping on Americans

By Todd Beamon

A presidential advisory panel has recommended sweeping limits on the government’s surveillance programs, including requiring a court to sign off on individual searches of phone records and stripping the National Security Agency of its ability to store that data from Americans..

While suggesting that the agency should be able to have access to some records, the panel said  it should not be able to store them and should get court approval to search individual data.

The White House released the report, by the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, weeks ahead of schedule. It spans more than 300 pages — and President Barack Obama is not obligated to accept the panel’s recommendations.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

The report comes a day after a federal judge ruled that the NSA’s secret collection of telephone records is unconstitutional and that it violated privacy rights.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon made the decision in a lawsuit brought against the government by Larry Klayman, founder of Judicial Watch and Freedom Watch.

Klayman on Tuesday on “The Steve Malzberg Show” called the ruling a “smart decision” that bolstered the Fourth Amendment.

The panel’s recommendations include tightening federal law enforcement’s use of so-called national security letters, which give the government sweeping authority to demand financial and phone records without prior court approval in national security cases. The task force recommended that authorities should be required to obtain a prior “judicial finding” showing “reasonable grounds” that the information sought is relevant to terrorism or other intelligence activities.In addition, the panel proposed terminating the NSA’s ability to store telephone data and instead require it to be held by the phone companies or a third party. Access to the data would then be permitted only through an order from a Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

“With regard to the bulk metadata of phone calls, we think there should be judicial review before that information is accessed and we don’t think the government should retain it,” said Richard Clarke, a member of the five-person panel.

If both recommendations were enacted, it’s likely they would slow down the intelligence collection process. The panel recommendations do allow for exceptions “in emergencies,” leaving open the possibility of intelligence agencies scanning the information quickly and asking for permission later if they suspect imminent attack.

Although the task force did not recommend ending any of the NSA’s daily sweeps of telephone and Internet data, as some critics urged, a senior lawyer for one influential privacy advocate group said the review group’s recommendations would amount to “sweeping” changes in government policy if Obama accepts them in bulk.

The recommendations “will fuel the NSA reform effort both within the administration and in Congress,” said Greg Nojeim, senior counsel with the Center for Democracy and Technology.

The panel also tackled the diplomatic furor over NSA spying on the leaders of allied nations, including Germany. The group recommended that the president personally approve such spying and that the decisions be based in part on whether the United States shares “fundamental values and interests” with the leaders of those nations.

“Just because we can doesn’t mean we should,” Clarke said.

The panel’s other recommendations include:

  • Guidelines for establishing reciprocal nonspying agreements with the United States
  • Creation of a civil liberties policy official in the White House and at the Office of Management and Budget.
  • Changes to the vetting process for those trying to obtain security clearances, including requiring that the vetting process be ongoing for those accessing classified information.

Panel members said they did not think any of the recommendations would harm U.S. national security.

“We are not in any way recommending the disarming of the intelligence community,” said Michael Morell, a task force member and former deputy director of the CIA. “We’re not saying struggle against terrorism is over.”

Obama ordered the group to submit recommendations following vicious attacks on the NSA after former contractor Edward Snowden leaked information about the agency’s widespread Internet and telephone surveillance programs earlier this year.

Snowden is now living under temporary asylum in Russia.

On Wednesday, Obama met with technology company officials — making no promises that the NSA would not limit its monitoring of Internet traffic.

Urgent: Do You Approve Or Disapprove of President Obama’s Job Performance? Vote Now in Urgent Poll 

The president’s relationship with Silicon Valley, which largely supported his re-election bid, is being tested over the NSA disclosures.

Obama has said that he wants a solution that balances national security with privacy interests of U.S. citizens.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Photos Show ‘Persons of Interest’ in Boston Marathon Bombings.


Image: Photos Show 'Persons of Interest' in Boston Marathon Bombings Police are seeking these two men as “persons of interest,” the Post reported. There is no direct evidence linking them to the crime. (New York Post)

By Todd Beamon

Federal officials on Wednesday were seeking two men as “persons of interest” in the Boston Marathon terror bombings and they distributed photographs for “law enforcement eyes only” that show the men carrying a duffel bag and a backpack.

The FBI is not sharing the photos with the public but the New York Post ran several photos that they linked to the investigation Thursday.

The men in the photos have not been labeled as suspects. There is no direct evidence linking them to the crime. It was not immediately clear if the men in the law-enforcement photos are the same men in the surveillance videos.

In the photos being distributed by law-enforcement officials, one of the men is carrying a blue duffel bag. The other is wearing a black backpack in the first photo, taken at 10:53 a.m., but it is not visible in the second, taken at 12:30 p.m, the Post reported.

“The attached photos are being circulated in an attempt to identify the individuals highlighted therein,” said an e-mail obtained by The Post. “Feel free to pass this around to any of your fellow agents elsewhere.”

Authorities know the names of the two men, but do not have enough evidence to make an arrest for Monday’s attack, which killed three and wounded 176, sources told the Post.

Fox said a reporter for the network had seen the photos and called them “clear.”

An unidentified Boston politician told The Associated Press Wednesday that investigators are seeking a man seen in a department store surveillance video dropping off a bag at the site of the bombings while a law-enforcement official confirmed that authorities have found an image of a potential suspect but they do not yet know his name.

It is not known whether the suspects in any of these instances are linked, according to news reports.

Meanwhile, Boston City Council President Stephen Murphy, who said he was briefed by local police, told the AP that investigators saw the image on surveillance footage they received from the Lord & Taylor department store near the finish line and matched the findings with witness descriptions of a person leaving the scene.

“I know it’s very active and very fluid right now — that they are on the chase,” Murphy told the AP. He added: “They may be on the verge of arresting someone, and that’s good.”

The department store video “has confirmed that a suspect is seen dropping a bag near the point of the second explosion and heading off,” Murphy said.

And in another development, investigators are exploring whether the bombs were assembled not far from the scene of the explosions — since transporting such improvised devices over any significant distance could trigger a premature detonation, The Wall Street Journal reports.

FBI agents and local police are canvassing Boston hotels and short-term rentals for clues on where the bombs could have been constructed, a law-enforcement official told The Journal.

The federal agency, with the assistance of U.S. Customs and Border Protection personnel, have been scrutinizing passenger lists from flights that had recently arrived at Boston’s Logan Airport for clues, the official said.

Investigators spent Wednesday poring over photos and video footage and piecing together shredded remnants of bombs looking for possible suspects. Monday’s attacks near the finish line of the Boston Marathon killed three and injured more than 170, many critically.

The developments came also amid much confusion as to whether a suspect had been arrested.

A number of news organizations reported that a person had been taken into custody, but the U.S. attorney’s office, the FBI, and Boston police insisted that no arrest had been made.

“Despite reports to the contrary, there has not been an arrest in the Marathon attack,” Boston police reported on Twitter about 2:40 p.m. Wednesday.

“Contrary to widespread reporting, no arrest has been made in connection with the Boston Marathon attack,” the FBI said in a statement later Wednesday afternoon.

“There’s been a lot of chaos and a lot of misinformation floating around,” Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick told CNN in an interview. “There has not been an arrest. There is no one in custody, but the investigation continues to unfold and they’re making progress. It’s going to take some time.”

As of late Wednesday, no arrests had been made — and more than 100 of the victims had been released from local hospitals.

At least 14 bombing victims remained in critical condition, and officials at three hospitals that treated some of the most seriously injured said they expected all their remaining patients to survive, the AP reports.

The three who died in the bombings were: 8-year-old Martin Richard of Dorchester, Mass.; Krystle Campbell, 29, of Arlington, Mass.; and Lingzu Lu, 23, a graduate student in statistics at Boston University from Shenyang, China.

According to authorities, a mangled pressure cooker lid found on the roof of a nearby building is believed to have been part of one bomb. It and other pieces were being analyzed at an FBI lab, Fox reports.

A battery and several pieces of shrapnel also were recovered and undergoing analysis.

A circuit board found at the scene on Tuesday is suspected of being used to detonate at least one of the bombs — and the FBI was also analyzing cellphone tower records to identify positive hits for signs of calls that may have been placed to trigger both explosions remotely.

In addition, FBI and Department of Homeland Security officials said that the shrapnel that caused the three deaths — and critical injuries to as many as 17 others — included nails, BBs and ball bearings.

The other device “was also housed in a metal container,” but investigators could not say if that was also a pressure cooker, Fox reports.

Pressure cooker bombs have been used in high-profile bombings in India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan — and they have been touted by al-Qaida in Yemen’s online magazine Inspire and in the “The Anarchist Cookbook.”

The explosions occurred within about 12 seconds of each other — and about 100 feet apart — around 2:50 p.m. near the finish line of the 26.2-mile Boston Marathon. Nearly 25,000 people competed in the celebrated race.

Richard DesLauriers, FBI agent in charge in Boston, confirmed that investigators had found pieces of black nylon from a bag or backpack and fragments of BBs and nails, possibly contained in a pressure cooker. The items were sent to the FBI laboratory at Quantico, Va., for analysis, Fox reports.

The FBI also plans to reconstruct the devices at their headquarters in Quantico, according to MyFoxBoston.com.

And Fagor America, a manufacturer of pressure cookers based in Lyndhurst, N.J., told The Boston Globe on Wednesday it had been “contacted by government investigators and are extending our full cooperation.”

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama — as well 2012 GOP presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney — will be in Boston on Thursday for an interfaith service to honor the victims.

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