Political Headlines June 12, 2013: Secretary of State John Kerry Defends NSA Program, ‘Welcomes’ Dept. Scrutiny





Secretary Kerry Defends NSA Program, ‘Welcomes’ Dept. Scrutiny

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-12-13

State Department photo/ Public Domain

At a joint press conference Wednesday with United Kingdom Foreign Secretary William Hague, Secretary of State John Kerry defended the National Security Agency, saying that Congress understands the program, passed it and voted for it several times. He also said the judiciary branch has also reviewed it and the program and has been actively engaged.

“This is a three-branch-of-government effort to keep America safe. And in fact, it has not read emails or looked at or listened to conversations, and — the exception of where a court may have made some decision, which was predicated on appropriate evidence,” said Kerry….READ MORE

Campaign Headlines June 12, 2013: President Barack Obama Campaigns for Ed Markey in Massachusetts Senate Run




Obama Stumps for Ed Markey in Massachusetts Senate Run

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-12-13

The Guardian via Getty Images

Seven months after winning re-election, President Obama is back on the campaign trail. This time, he’s lending his political prowess to stump for Senate hopeful Rep. Ed Markey….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 12, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at Ed Markey for Senate Rally, Boston, Massachusetts



Remarks by the President at Markey for Senate Rally — Boston, MA

Source: WH, 6-12-13

Reggie Lewis Track and Athletic Center
Roxbury Crossing, Massachusetts

1:27 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Hello, Boston!  (Applause.)  It is great to be back in Boston.  (Applause.)  Good to be back in Massachusetts.  (Applause.)  And, most of all, it is great to be here with the next senator from Massachusetts — Ed Markey.  (Applause.)

First of all, I want to thank Ed for that great introduction.  (Applause.)  Because I am here with my great friends from Boston, because I’m here to campaign on behalf of somebody who will be an outstanding member of the United States Senate, I am not going to talk trash about the hockey game.  (Laughter.)  I’m not going to say anything about the outstanding qualities of the Chicago Blackhawks.  (Laughter.)

AUDIENCE:  Boooo —

THE PRESIDENT:  I’m not going to say anything.  I’m not going to do it.  (Laughter.)  Because I don’t want to make you all feel bad.  (Laughter.)  I want you to feel good.

Part of the reason you should feel good is not only do you have an outstanding congressional delegation, you also have a great Governor — my good friend, Deval Patrick.  (Applause.)   You’ve got one of the finest mayors in the United States of America — we love Tom Menino.  (Applause.)  I was just backstage talking to Tom, and he doesn’t just inspire Boston and make it a better place, he inspires the country.  And we’re grateful for his lifetime of service.

The last time I saw Tom, the last time I saw a lot of you was for the memorial service honoring the victims of the Marathon bombing.  So this morning, before I came here, I wanted to spend some time with some Bostonians, so we stopped by Charlie’s Sandwich Shop — (applause) — and I got a burger and fries.  And we were saying hi to everybody and hugging folks, and Ed was with me.  And one of the people I met in the shop just by happenstance was a young man whose family had been injured by the bombing.  And he was with a nurse who had been at Mass General the day those folks got brought in.  And she was on her day off.  But I gave her a big hug and I reminded her of how much what she did had meant to so many people all throughout the city and she was an example of the spirit of Boston during a very difficult time.
And I asked people, how is the city doing?  And they said, you know, we’re bouncing back.  Boylston Street may be open again.  Life may be back to normal in a lot of ways.  But we know there’s still too many middle-class families that aren’t seeing their hard work rewarded, too many young people who are looking for work and can’t find it, too many Americans who feel like the rungs on the ladder of opportunity have grown farther and farther apart.  And that’s why Ed and I are focused on building the true engine of long-term economic growth — and that is a rising, thriving middle class.  (Applause.)

And every day I wake up, I ask three questions:  How do I make America a magnet for good jobs?  How do we make sure our workers earn the skills and education they need for those jobs?  How do we make sure those jobs are paying a decent living?  And the answer to that is, government can’t do it by itself.  Obviously, the private sector is the driver of our economy.  It’s the engine of our growth.

But when people say the whole problem is government, they don’t understand government can help by establishing smart priorities, by making smart choices, by investing in American manufacturing so we’re bringing more of our jobs back from overseas — (applause) — investing in our roads and our bridges and our ports to make sure that we are staying competitive all around the world; educating our children from the earliest years, keeping them safe from gun violence; rethinking our high schools, making college more affordable — (applause) — making sure we stay at the cutting edge in science and technology; securing our energy future; addressing climate change.  There are some things that government can do that will help middle-class families, and that’s what Ed Markey is committed to doing.  (Applause.)

We can do all this.  We have all the plans.  We have all the policies.  We have solutions to our challenges.  We have all the ingredients for success.  This is not only the greatest nation on Earth in the past, this is going to be the greatest nation on Earth for the foreseeable future.  There’s no country on Earth that would not gladly trade places with the United States.  But what’s holding us back right now is inaction in Washington, gridlock in Washington — too many folks in Washington who are putting the next election ahead of the next generation.  (Applause.)

Now, Boston, I want you to know I’ve run my last campaign.  Michelle is very happy about that.  (Laughter.)  So my only concern is making sure that we advance the interests of the broadest number of Americans and we leave our children a stronger, safer, more prosperous country than the one we inherited.  That’s all I care about.  (Applause.)  And that means I’m willing to work with anybody — I’ll work with Republicans, Democrats, independents — anybody who wants to make progress. I’m ready to get going.  I want to work with them.  (Applause.)

So, for example, right now on immigration, we’ve got a good bipartisan bill moving through the Senate that strengthens our borders and reforms the system so that everybody is playing by the same rules — reform that will allow us to continue to attract talent from all around the world, the best and the brightest.  And whenever Republicans are ready to work with me, I’m ready to work with them.  (Applause.)  I want to govern not just politic.  (Applause.)

And I notice on gun violence, there are a lot of Republicans out there who recognize that we need some common-sense gun safety measures.  Some Republicans may be rethinking the stances that they took in the past.  That’s the good news.  We want to encourage that.  But the fact of the matter is that a whole bunch of Republicans out there are not interested in getting things done.  They think compromise is a dirty word.  They think the problem we’ve got is just working people who join unions — that that’s what holding us back.  They think environmental regulations are what’s holding us back.  They think that we’re spending, I guess, too much money on science and research and technology.

And because of those attitudes, we’ve got to have some Democrats like Ed Markey, who will stand up and do the right thing.  That’s what we need.  (Applause.)

Ed mentioned that the idea of being a Democrat — look, I don’t believe that any single party has a monopoly on wisdom.  My favorite President is a guy from Illinois who founded the Republican Party, effectively — Abraham Lincoln, our first Republican President.  (Applause.)  But what does make me a Democrat is the basic idea that in this country, no matter what you look like, no matter where you come from, no matter who you love, you should be able to get ahead if you’re willing to work hard and act responsibly.  (Applause.)

You should be able to buy a home and send your kids to college, and save a little bit for retirement, make sure your kids get a good education, not go bankrupt when you get sick.  Most Americans aren’t asking for a lot.  They know they’ve got to take care of themselves.  They just want to make sure that if they’re working hard, they can get ahead.  That’s the essence of what it means to be a Democrat.

And that’s why we’ve got to have folks like Ed Markey, who are going to help keep weapons of war off the streets and out of our schools; make it harder for criminals to get a gun in their hands.

That’s why we’ve got to have a Democrat who is going to make sure that we implement the Affordable Care Act — because in a nation this wealthy, nobody should have to go without affordable, accessible health care.  They don’t have to do it in Massachusetts.  They shouldn’t have to do it anywhere else.  (Applause.)  It’s the right thing to do, and we need Ed Markey to make sure that it gets implemented.  (Applause.)

We’re fighting to make sure that when it comes to women’s health, no employer or insurance company or politician gets to decide your health care.  Women should make decisions about their health care, not some politician in Washington.  (Applause.)

We need somebody who is going to be supportive of the Consumer Financial Protection Board that Elizabeth Warren and I started talking about even before I was elected President and that we’ve now implemented to make sure you’re not getting cheated by unscrupulous financial practices.  We need somebody who is going to support that robustly.  That’s what Ed is going to do.

We don’t need politicians who are going to roll back these rights.  We need somebody like Ed Markey who is going to fight to secure them, no matter how many times the Republicans in Washington want to refight the old battles.

Do you know that the House Republicans have held nearly 40 votes to repeal Obamacare?  They did another one just two weeks ago because they figured that they were a couple new representatives that hadn’t had a chance to vote against Obamacare.  That’s not a productive thing to do, people.

This law is going to mean big things for the economic security of middle-class families.  We should be spending time figuring out how to spread the word that if you don’t have health insurance, you can now get it.

We need a senator from Massachusetts who will help me, work with me, to deal with climate change in an honest, realistic way. (Applause.)  Ed has been fighting this battle for decades.  If we want our children and our grandchildren to live in the same beautiful planet, the same abundance and natural glory that we have enjoyed in our lives, we’ve got to double down on our investment in science and basic research.  We can’t just develop the energy sources of the past.  We’ve got to develop the energy sources of the future.

We’ve got the tools and the capabilities to make huge strides.  We’ve already doubled the production of clean energy.  We’ve already doubled fuel-efficiency standards on cars.  We’ve got to keep on going forward, not backwards.  And that’s what Ed Markey is going to help us do.  (Applause.)

We’ve ended a war in Iraq; we’re winding down the war in Afghanistan responsibly.  Now we’re going to have to take care of our veterans and keep Americans safe.  And I will keep working with the other side of the aisle on these issues.  But I want somebody like Ed Markey who every single day is going to be fighting on behalf of our veterans, going to be fighting on behalf of our first responders.

These budget battles we have in Washington, they have implications for whether or not we’re helping cities and states fund their firefighters, fund their police officers.  And everybody here in Boston knows how much those first responders mean to us when a crisis has hit.  (Applause.)  And we’ve got to make sure we’re there for them.  (Applause.)

So, look, here’s the bottom line.  We’ve gone through some tough times over these last few years and so many of you put your faith in me in 2008 and 2012 — (applause) — the folks here in Massachusetts were very kind to me back in 2004, when nobody could pronounce my name.  (Laughter.)

And every single day, I think about all of you.  I look out on the faces in this crowd — some of you I know, some of you have knocked on doors for me, some of you poured your heart and soul into our efforts.

But here’s the thing that I think all of us understand — the job of rebuilding America, the job of making sure our kids have a great education, the job of making sure everybody has health care, the job of making sure that financial institutions treat everybody fairly, the job of making sure our veterans have the care that they need, the job of making sure we have a bright energy future, the job of preserving our environment, the job of making sure we stay on the cutting-edge when it comes to innovation — that job is not mine alone.  I can’t do it by myself.  I’ve got to have folks with me who care as passionately about these things as I do.  (Applause.)  I’ve got to have folks in the United States Senate who are willing to stand up for working people just like I have.  I need folks in the United States Senate who, every day, are waking up thinking about the people who sent them there, and trying to figure out how do I make sure that they are getting a brighter future.

That’s who Ed Markey is.  I need Ed Markey in the United States Senate.  (Applause.)

So this election is going to come down to turnout.  We’ve got a whole lot of Democrats in this state and a whole lot of Obama voters, but you can’t just turnout during a presidential election.  You’ve got to turn out in this election.  You can’t think, oh, I did my work in 2012.  You’ve got some work to do right now in 2013.  (Applause.)  You can’t just pat your back and say, well, I knocked on some doors back in November.  I need you knocking on some doors right now in June.  (Applause.)

And if you work with the same focus and the same passion — if you are knocking on some doors and making some phone calls, if you’re talking to your friends and you’re talking to your neighbors — if you’re talking to cousin Jimmy who doesn’t always vote unless you give him a phone call — if you are making sure that people know Ed Markey’s remarkable record in Congress, then I guarantee you he will be the next United States senator from Massachusetts.  (Applause.)  He’ll join Elizabeth Warren.  He’ll carry on the legacy of Ted Kennedy and John Kerry.  He will be my partner, and we will continue the march forward on behalf of not just this generation, but future generations.

Thank you.  Let’s get to work.  God bless you.

1:51 P.M. EDT

Political Musings June 12, 2013: National Security Agency’s dragnet classified data collection: National security necessity or Orwellian proportion privacy invasion?





National Security Agency’s dragnet classified data collection: National security necessity or Orwellian proportion privacy invasion?

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Ms. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program.

The Obama Administration can add a fourth burgeoning scandal to their second term woes. Last Wednesday June 5, 2013, the Washington Post and the London, UK paper the Guardian revealed the National Security Agency (NSA) along with FBI had been the monitoring all phone and internet records in the United States. The story took an added twist on Sunday, June 9 when Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor responsible for leaking documents from the surveillance program to the press came forward. Now the focus is on two fronts, the violations of rights to privacy in exchange for national security, and the legal fate of the whistleblower.

When the story broke, news headlines first focused on Verizon releasing information relating to all their customers landline and mobile phone calls because of a special and secretive court order.  The data collection focuses on the metadata; telephone numbers, call lengths, locations, and call frequency for all calls within the country and calls abroad dialed within the United States. There have been repeated assurances that the phone calls themselves were not recorded. However, the public was soon informed that the government’s collection was far broader and included internet and social media sites including Yahoo, Google and Facebook.

The administration has justified the data surveillance by stating it is important to national security and has thwarted terrorist attacks in the past. A White House official speaking to ABC News stated the program was “a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats to the United States,” but complies “with the Constitution and laws of the United States and appropriately protect privacy and civil liberties.”

The government position is that this revelation to the general public would hinder their ability to protect the public from terrorism.  Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper released a statement which an excerpt read “The unauthorized disclosure of information about this important and entirely legal program is reprehensible and risks important protections for the security of Americans.”

President Barack Obama speaking in California on Friday, June 7 attempted to reassure the public that their phone calls were not being recorded, “Nobody is listening to your telephone calls. They are not looking at people’s names, and they’re not looking at content.  But by sifting through this so-called metadata, they may identify potential leads with respect to folks who might engage in terrorism,” Obama said.

The phone and internet surveillance program known as PRISM has popular support in Congress and there seems there might not be grand scale opposition in either the House of Representatives or the Senate. Chair of the Intelligence Committee Senator Dianne Feinstein, D-CA stated that the records collection was a part of the 2001 Patriot Act and said “It’s called protecting America…. I understand privacy…. we want to protect people’s private rights and that is why this is carefully done.”

President Obamas also made it clear on Friday that although the program was a secret to the public, but there was bipartisan support and knowledge of the data collection program from Congress. “The programs that have been discussed over the last couple days in the press are secret in the sense that they’re classified, but they’re not secret in the sense that when it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program,” Obama stated.  The President continued “The relevant intelligence committees are fully briefed on these programs.  These are programs that have been authorized by broad, bipartisan majorities repeatedly since 2006.”

Speaker of the House John Boehner, a Republican agreed with Obama in an interview on Tuesday morning, June 11with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos. “He’s a traitor,” Boehner declared about Snowden’s press leak. Boehner continued; “The disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk.  It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are.  And it’s a giant violation of the law.”

Americans and human rights activists are left pondering can the widespread invasion of privacy sacrificed by the government be justified even for national security, even to prevent a widespread and catastrophic terror attack? The answer was no to Edward Snowden, the NSA contractor who leaked the documents on the PRISM program on the widespread data collection and privacy intrusion.

Snowden first contacted the media in January getting the wheels in motions for the big reveal. Living and working in Hawaii, Snowden took sick leave from his job and then left for Hong Kong, where he was staying at the time the leaks about the NSA was made public last week up until the disclosure Sunday, June 9 that he was the whistleblower.

In his interview with the Guardian Snowden claimed; “I don’t want to live in a society that does these sort of things … I do not want to live in a world where everything I do and say is recorded. That is not something I am willing to support or live under.”

As the US government looks into charging Snowden, he has been fired from his contracting job at Booz Allen, and the conversation has veered to countries that would give him asylum. Snowden supporters have created a petition on the White House’s We the People web site stating that “Edward Snowden is a national hero”  and are asking that there be a “full, free, and absolute pardon for any crimes he has committed or may have committed.” As of late Tuesday night, June 11 there are 58,299 signatures, with 41,701 needed for the 100,000 required for a review.

Human rights groups are standing firmly against the data collection, the head of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) called the data collection program Orwellian. On Tuesday the ACLU filed a suit in federal court against the Obama Administration challenging the constitutionality of the data collection program.

If there is partisan support for the program there is also bipartisan opposition, former Vice President Al Gore a Democrat, wrote on Twitter “In digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me, or is secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?” While a Republican and Libertarian in Congress such as Senator Rand Paul said it “represents an outrageous abuse of power.”  “It is an extraordinary invasion of privacy…. I also believe that trolling through millions of phone records hampers the legitimate protection of our security,” Paul said on Fox News.

Despite the so-called broad bipartisan support, two bills have been introduced to curb data collection since details of the NSA programs appeared in the media. On Friday June 7, Senator Paul introduced a bill; the Fourth Amendment Restoration Act, which would make it necessary to obtain a warrant prior to a data search. On Tuesday June 11, eight senators in a bipartisan effort introduced a bill to end and declassify secretive data collection laws. The heavily democratic supported bill has among its ranks Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., and Republicans Mike Lee, Utah and Dean Heller, Nev.

At this time the public opinions seems more unclear, two conflicting polls released on Monday, June 10 from the Washington Post-Pew Research Center and Tuesday, June 11 from CBS News.

The Washington Post-Pew Research Center seems to find Americans looking favorably on the data collection. According to the poll 56 percent find it “acceptable,” and 41 percent find it “unacceptable” for the government to monitor phone data. When it came to expanding government monitoring internet activity the results differed; 52 percent did not believe it should be expanded versus 45 percent who support collection expansion.

According the CBS News poll 6 in 10 disapproved of the phone data collection program, however Americans strongly approve by three-quarters that terrorist suspects should be monitored and the internet data of foreigners. Still 53 to 40 percent believe this program helps discover terrorists.

Whatever the political fallout will be for the Obama administration and the legal outcome for Snowden there is no doubt that Snowden will be put down among the ranks of the major whistleblowers in American history.

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