Political Musings December 15, 2014: Bush visits 9/11 memorial museum after Senate CIA torture report release




Bush visits 9/11 memorial museum after Senate CIA torture report release

By Bonnie K. Goodman

Less than a week after the Senate CIA torture report was released Former President George W. Bush visited the September 11th Memorial and Museum on Sunday evening, Dec. 14, 2014. President Bush’s visit was without much fanfare, without…READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency October 28, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech at FBI Director James Comey’s Installation Ceremony



Remarks by the President and FBI Director James Comey

Source: WH, 10-28-13

President Barack Obama and FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce, center, applaud FBI Director James Comey, left, during his installation ceremony at the J. Edgar Hoover BuildingPresident Barack Obama and FBI Deputy Director Sean Joyce, center, applaud FBI Director James Comey, left, during his installation ceremony at the J. Edgar Hoover Building in Washington, D.C., Oct. 28, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

12:34 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you, FBI.  (Applause.) Thank you so much.  Please, everybody, be seated — those of you who have seats.  (Laughter.)
Well, good afternoon, everybody.  I am so proud to be here and to stand once again with so many dedicated men and women of the FBI.  You are the best of the best.  Day in and day out, you work tirelessly to confront the most dangerous threats our nation faces.  You serve with courage; you serve with integrity.  You protect Americans at home and abroad.  You lock up criminals.  You secure the homeland against the threat of terrorism.  Without a lot of fanfare, without seeking the spotlight, you do your jobs, all the while upholding our most cherished values and the rule of law.
Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity:  That’s your motto.  And today, we’re here to welcome a remarkable new leader for this remarkable institution, one who lives those principles out every single day:  Mr. Jim Comey.
Before I get to Jim, I want to thank all the predecessors who are here today.  We are grateful for your service.  I have to give a special shout-out to Bob Mueller, who served longer than he was supposed to, but he was such an extraordinary leader through some of the most difficult times that we’ve had in national security.  And I consider him a friend and I’m so grateful for him and Ann being here today.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)
Now, Jim has dedicated his life to defending our laws — to making sure that all Americans can trust our justice system to protect their rights and their well-being.  He’s the grandson of a beat cop.  He’s the prosecutor who helped bring down the Gambinos.  He’s the relentless attorney who fought to stem the bloody tide of gun violence, rub out white-collar crime, deliver justice to terrorists.  It’s just about impossible to find a matter of justice he has not tackled, and it’s hard to imagine somebody who is not more uniquely qualified to lead a bureau that covers all of it — traditional threats like violent and organized crime to the constantly changing threats like terrorism and cyber-security.  So he’s got the resume.
But, of course, Jim is also a famously cool character — the calmest in the room during a crisis.  Here’s what a fellow former prosecutor said about him.  He said, “You know that Rudyard Kipling line — ‘If you can keep your head when all about you are losing theirs’– that’s Jim.”
There’s also a story from the time during his prosecution of the Gambino crime family.  One of the defendants was an alleged hit man named Lorenzo.  And during the trial, Jim won an award from the New York City Bar Association.  When the court convened the next morning, everybody was buzzing about it, and suddenly, a note was passed down from the defendant’s table, across the aisle to the prosecutor’s table.  It was handed to Jim, and it read:  “Dear Jim, congratulations on your award.  No one deserves it more than you.  You’re a true professional.  Sincerely, Lorenzo.”  (Laughter.)
“Sincerely, Lorenzo.”  Now, we don’t know how sincere he was.  (Laughter.)  We don’t know whether this was a veiled threat, or a plea for leniency, or an honest compliment.  But I think it is fair to say that Jim has won the respect of folks across the spectrum — including Lorenzo.  (Laughter.)
He’s the perfect leader for an organization whose walls are graced by the words of a legendary former director:  “The most effective weapon against crime is cooperation.”  Jim has worked with many of the more than 35,000 men and women of the FBI over the course of his long and distinguished career.  And it’s his admiration and respect for all of you, individually, his recognition of the hard work that you do every day — sometimes under extraordinarily difficult circumstances — not just the folks out in the field, but also folks working the back rooms, doing the hard work, out of sight — his recognition that your mission is important is what compelled him to answer the call to serve his country again.
The FBI joins forces with our intelligence, our military, and homeland security professionals to break up all manner of threats — from taking down drug rings to stopping those who prey on children, to breaking up al Qaeda cells to disrupting their activities, thwarting their plots.  And your mission keeps expanding because the nature of the threats are always changing.
Unfortunately, the resources allotted to that mission has been reduced by sequestration.  I’ll keep fighting for those resources because our country asks and expects a lot from you, and we should make sure you’ve got the resources you need to do the job.  Especially when many of your colleagues put their lives on the line on a daily basis, all to serve and protect our fellow citizens — the least we can do is make sure you’ve got the resources for it and that your operations are not disrupted because of politics in this town.  (Applause.)
Now the good news is things like courage, leadership, judgment, and compassion — those resources are, potentially, at least, inexhaustible.  That’s why it’s critical that we seek out the best people to serve — folks who have earned the public trust; who have excellent judgment, even in the most difficult circumstances; those who possess not just a keen knowledge of the law, but also a moral compass that they — and we — can always count on.
And that’s who we’ve got in Jim Comey.  I’ll tell you I interviewed a number of extraordinary candidates for this job, all with sterling credentials.  But what gave me confidence that this was the right man for the job wasn’t his degrees and it wasn’t his resume; it was in talking to him and seeing his amazing family, a sense that this somebody who knows what’s right and what’s wrong, and is willing to act on that basis every single day.  And that’s why I’m so grateful that he’s signed up to serve again.
I will spare you yet another joke about how today, no one stands taller.  (Laughter.)  I simply want to thank Jim for accepting this role.  I want to thank Patrice and the five remarkable children that they’ve got — because jobs like this are a team effort, as you well know.
And I want to thank most all the men and women of the FBI.  I’m proud of your work.  I’m grateful for your service.  I’m absolutely confident that this agency will continue to flourish with Jim at the helm.  And if he gets lost in the building, I want you guys to help him out.  (Laughter.)  Because I guarantee you that he’s going to have your back, make sure you’ve got his back as well.
Thank you very much, everybody.  God bless you.  (Applause.)
MR. JOYCE:  And now, ladies and gentlemen, it is my honor to introduce the seventh Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation — James B. Comey.  (Applause.)
MR. COMEY:  Thank you, Sean.  Thank you, Mr. President.  Thank you so much for gracing us with your presence, for honoring us, and for speaking so eloquently about the mission of the FBI and its great people.
Thank you also to my friends and family who are gathered here today.  My entire life is literally represented in this crowd, and it is a pretty picture.  These are the people that I have known and loved literally my entire life and from whom I have learned so much.
I’m especially grateful that my dad and my sister and my brothers could be here today.  I wish so much that Mom could be here to enjoy this amazing day.  I can still hear ringing in my entire teenage years her voice as she snapped open the shades every single morning and said, “Rise and shine and show the world what you’re made of.”  I found it less inspiring at the time — (laughter) — but it made us who we are.  And I’ll never forget that.
And to my five troops and my amazing bride, who talked me into being interviewed for this job — of course, with the caveat that she’d be okay because the President would never pick me.  (Laughter.)  I got to tell you, this is your last chance to talk to him about it.  (Laughter.)
Mr. President, I am so grateful for this honor and this opportunity to serve with the men and women of the FBI.  They are standing all around this great courtyard, and standing on duty all around this country and around this world at this moment.  I know already that this is the best job I have ever had and will ever have.
That’s because I have a front row seat to watch the work of a remarkable group of people who serve this country, folks from all walks of life who joined the FBI for the same reason — they were teachers and soldiers, and police officers and scholars, and software engineers, and people from all walks of life who wanted to do good for a living.  They wanted jobs with moral content, and so they joined this great organization.
I thought about them as I stood in this courtyard just a week ago and showed a visiting foreign leader the statue that overlooks this ceremony.  It’s an artist’s depiction of the words from our shield that the President mentioned:  Fidelity, Bravery, and Integrity. And as I thought about that statue and those words and this ceremony, I thought I would take just a couple of minutes and tell you what those words mean and why I think they belong on our shield.
First, fidelity.  The dictionary defines fidelity as a strict and continuing faithfulness to an obligation, trust, or duty.  To my mind, that word on our shield reminds us that the FBI must abide two obligations at the same time.  First, the FBI must be independent of all political forces or interests in this country.  In a real sense, it must stand apart from other institutions in American life.  But, second, at the same time, it must be part of the United States Department of Justice, and constrained by the rule of law and the checks and balances built into our brilliant design by our nation’s founders.
There is a tension reflected in those two aspects of fidelity, those two values that I see in that word, and I think that tension is reflected in the 10-year term that I’ve just begun.  The term is 10 years to ensure independence.  But it is a fixed term of years to ensure that power does not become concentrated in one person and unconstrained.  The need for reflection and restraint of power is what led Louis Freeh to order that all new agent classes visit the Holocaust Museum here in Washington so they could see and feel and hear in a palpable way the consequences of abuse of power on a massive almost unimaginable scale.  Bob Mueller continued that practice.  And I will again, when we have agents graduating from Quantico.
The balance reflected in my term is also a product of lessons hard learned from the history of this great institution.  Our first half-century or so was a time of great progress and achievement for this country, and for the Bureau.  But it also saw abuse and overreach — most famously with respect to Martin Luther King and others, who were viewed as internal security threats.
As I think about the unique balance represented by fidelity to independence on the one hand, and the rule of law on the other, I think it also makes sense for me to offer those in training a reminder closer to our own history.  I’m going to direct that all new agents and analysts also visit the Martin Luther King Memorial here in Washington.  I think it will serve as a different kind of lesson — (applause) — one more personal to the Bureau, of the dangers in becoming untethered to oversight and accountability.
 That word fidelity belongs on our shield.
 Next, bravery.  We have perpetrated a myth in our society that being brave means not being afraid, but that’s wrong.  Mark Twain once said that bravery “is resistance to fear, mastery of fear, not absence of fear.”  If you’ve ever talked to a special agent that you know well and you ask he or she about a dangerous encounter they were involved in, they’ll almost always give you the same answer, “yeah, I did it, but I was scared to heck the whole time.”  But that’s the essence of bravery.
Only a crazy person wouldn’t fear approaching a car with tinted windows during a late-night car stop, or pounding up a flight of stairs to execute a search warrant, or fast-roping from a helicopter down into hostile fire.  Real agents, like real people, feel that fear in the pit of their stomachs.  But you know the difference between them and most folks?  They do it anyway, and they volunteer to do that for a living.
What makes the bravery of the men and women of the FBI so special is that they know exactly what they’re in for.  They spend weeks and weeks in an academy learning just how hard and dangerous this work is.  Then they raise their right hands and take an oath, and do that work anyway.  They have seen the Wall of Honor — that I hope so much my friends and guests and family will get to see inside this building — with pictures and links to the lives of those who gave the last full measure of devotion for their country as FBI employees.
Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman said this:  “I would define true courage to be a perfect sensibility of the measure of danger and a mental willingness to endure it.”
I called a special agent a few weeks ago after he had been shot during an arrest.  I knew before I called him that he had already been injured severely twice in his Bureau career, once in a terrorist bombing and once in a helicopter crash.  Yet when I got him on the phone, I got the strong sense he couldn’t wait to get me off the phone.  He was embarrassed by my call.  “Mr. Director, it was a through and through wound.  No big deal.”  He was more worried about his Bureau car, which he had left at the scene of the shooting.  (Laughter.)  He felt okay, though, because his wife — also a special agent — was going to go get the car, so everything was fine.  (Laughter.)
The men and women of this organization understand perfectly the danger they’re in every day and choose to endure it because they believe in this mission.  That’s why bravery belongs on our shield.
And, finally, integrity.  Integrity is derived from the Latin word “integer,” meaning whole.  A person of integrity is complete, undivided.  Sincerity, decency, trustworthy are synonyms of integrity.  It’s on our shield because it is the quality that makes possible all the good that we do.  Because everything we do requires that we be believed, whether that’s promising a source that we will protect her, telling a jury what we saw or heard, or telling a congressional oversight committee or the American people what we are doing with our power and our authorities.  We must be believed.
Without integrity, all is lost.  We cannot do the good that all of these amazing people signed up to do.  The FBI’s reputation for integrity is a gift given to every new employee by those who went before.  But it is a gift that must be protected and earned every single day.  We protect that gift by making mistakes and admitting them, by making promises and keeping them, and by realizing that nothing — no case, no source, no fear of embarrassment — is worth jeopardizing the gift of integrity.  Integrity must be on the FBI shield.
So, you see, those three words — Fidelity, Bravery, Integrity — capture the essence of the FBI and its people.  And they also explain why I am here.  I wanted to be here to work alongside those people, to represent them, to help them accomplish their mission, and to just be their colleague.
It is an honor and a challenge beyond description.  I will do my absolute best to be worthy of it.  Thank you very much. (Applause.)
12:55 P.M.

Full Text Obama Presidency October 18, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Nomination of Jeh Johnson to be Secretary of Homeland Security



Remarks by the President at Nomination of Jeh Johnson to be Secretary of Homeland Security

Source: WH, 10-18-13

President Obama Nominates Jeh Johnson

President Obama Nominates Jeh Johnson

Rose Garden

2:06 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Good afternoon, everybody.  Please have a seat.  As President, my most solemn responsibility is the safety and security of the American people.  And we’ve got an outstanding team here of folks who work every single day to make sure that we’re doing everything we can to fulfill that responsibility.  And that means that our entire government — our law enforcement and homeland security professionals, our troops, our diplomats, our intelligence personnel — are all working together.  It means working with state and local partners to disrupt terrorist attacks, to make our borders more secure, respond to natural disasters, and make our immigration system more effective and fair.

Addressing any one of these challenges is a tall order.  Addressing all of them at once is a monumental task.  But that’s what the dedicated men and women of the Department of Homeland Security do every day.  And today I’m proud to announce my choice to lead them — an outstanding public servant who I’ve known and trusted for years — Mr. Jeh Johnson.

We are, of course, enormously grateful to Secretary Janet Napolitano.  Janet couldn’t be here today — she’s already made her move to her new position in sunny California, overseeing the higher education system in that great state.  And I know that she’s going to do an outstanding job there with the incredible young people that are in our largest state.  But we all deeply appreciate the terrific job that she did over the last four-and-a-half years.  I want to thank Rand Beers for his service and for stepping in as Acting Secretary after Janet left.

Thanks in no small part to Janet’s leadership, her team, we’ve done more to protect our homeland against those who wish to do us harm.  We’ve strengthened our borders.  We’ve taken steps to make sure our immigration system better reflects our values.  We’ve helped thousands of Americans recover from hurricanes and tornados, floods and wildfires.  And we’ve worked to clean up a massive oil spill in the Gulf as well as address a flu pandemic.

In Jeh Johnson, we have the right person to continue this important work.  From the moment I took office, Jeh was an absolutely critical member of my national security team, and he demonstrated again and again the qualities that will make him a strong Secretary of Homeland Security.

Jeh has a deep understanding of the threats and challenges facing the United States.  As the Pentagon’s top lawyer, he helped design and implement many of the policies that have kept our country safe, including our success in dismantling the core of al Qaeda and in the FATA.

When I directed my national security team to be more open and transparent about how our policies work and how we make decisions, especially when it comes to preventing terrorist attacks, Jeh was one of the leaders who spoke eloquently about how we meet today’s threats in a way that are consistent with our values, including the rule of law.

Jeh also knows that meeting these threats demands cooperation and coordination across our government.  He’s been there in the Situation Room at the table in moments of decision, working with leaders from a host of agencies to make sure everyone is rowing in the same direction.  And he’s respected across our government as a team player, somebody who knows how to get folks who don’t always agree to work towards a common goal.

Jeh has experience leading large complex organizations.  As a member of the Pentagon’s senior management team, first under Bob Gates and then under Leon Panetta, he helped oversee the work of more than 3 million military and civilian personnel across the country and around the world.  And I think it’s fair to say that both former secretaries Gates and Panetta will attest to the incredible professionalism that Jeh brings to the job, and the bipartisan approach that, appropriately, he takes when it comes to national security.

He’s also earned a reputation as a cool and calm leader.  Jeh appreciates that any organization’s greatest asset is its people, and at the Pentagon he guided the report explaining why allowing our men and women in uniform to serve their country openly would not weaken our military.  Congress ended up using that report that Jeh helped to craft to justify repealing “don’t ask, don’t tell.”  And America and our military are stronger because we did, in part because of Jeh’s determined leadership.  I know he will bring that same commitment to our hardworking folks at DHS.

And finally, Jeh believes, in a deep and personal way, that keeping America safe requires us also upholding the values and civil liberties that make America great.  Jeh tells the story of his uncle who was a member of the legendary Tuskegee Airmen during World War II.  And he and his fellow airmen served with honor, even when their country didn’t treat them with the dignity and the respect that they deserved.  And it was a lesson that Jeh never forgot.  “We must adopt legal positions that comport with common sense,” Jeh says, “consistent with who we are as Americans.”  Jeh is a pretty good lawyer, so he knows what that means.

And Jeh understands that this country is worth protecting –- not because of what we build or what we own, but because of who we are.  And that’s what sets us apart.  That’s why, as a nation, we have to keep adapting to changing threats, whether natural or man-made.  We have to stay ready when disaster strikes and help Americans recover in the aftermath.  We’ve got to fix our broken immigration system in a way that strengthens our borders, and modernizes legal immigration, and makes sure everybody is playing by the same rules.

And I’m confident that I could not make a better choice in Jeh, somebody who I’m confident is going to be moving not just the agency forward, but helping to move the country forward.

So, Jeh, thank you so much for agreeing to take on this very difficult and extraordinary mission.  You’ve got a great team over at DHS, and I know that they’re looking forward to having you over there.  I urge the Senate to confirm Jeh as soon as possible.  And I thank you, as well as your family, to agreeing to serve.  Your wife, Susan, and your daughter, Natalie, couldn’t be here because they’re visiting Jeh Jr. out at Occidental College, which, by the way, I went to for two years when I was young.  It’s a fine college.  I’m sorry I couldn’t be there to say hi to him.  But your son chose well.

So, ladies and gentlemen, I’d like to invite Jeh Johnson to say a few words, hopefully our next Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security.  (Applause.)

MR. JOHNSON:  Thank you very much, Mr. President.

As you noted, my wife and two kids are not here because it’s parents’ weekend at Occidental, and thanks to the cost of a non-refundable airline ticket — (laughter) — they could not be in two places at once.  They wish they could be here.

Thank you for the tremendous honor of this nomination and the trust you have placed in me to carry out this large and important responsibility as Secretary of Homeland Security.  I was not looking for this opportunity — I had left government at the end of last year and was settling back into private life and private law practice.  But when I received the call, I could not refuse it.

I am a New Yorker, and I was present in Manhattan on 9/11, which happens to be my birthday, when that bright and beautiful day was — a day something like this — was shattered by the largest terrorist attack on our homeland in history.  I wandered the streets of New York that day and wondered and asked, what can I do?  Since then, I have tried to devote myself to answering that question.  I love this country.  I care about the safety of our people.  I believe in public service.  And I remain loyal to you, Mr. President.

If confirmed by the Senate, I promise all of my energy, focus, and ability toward the task of safeguarding our nation’s national and homeland security.

Thank you again, sir.  (Applause.)


2:14 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines June 19, 2013: FBI Director Robert Mueller Reveals US Drone Program During NSA Testimony

FBI Chief Reveals US Drone Program

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-19-13

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The FBI does fly spy drones over the U.S. FBI Director Robert Mueller made that admission before the Senate Judiciary Committee on Wednesday during his testimony about the National Security Agency surveillance programs.

According to Mueller, the FBI deploys these unmanned planes in “a very minimal way and very seldom” and his bureau is working to develop guidelines for their future use so as to relieve concerns of privacy advocates and civil liberties groups….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 18, 2013: NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander: ‘Over 50′ Terror Plots Foiled by Data Dragnets





‘Over 50′ Terror Plots Foiled by Data Dragnets, NSA Director Says

Source: ABC News Radio, 6-18-13

Win McNamee/Getty Images

The director of the National Security Administration on Tuesday told Congress “In recent years, these programs, together with other intelligence, have protected the U.S. and our allies from terrorist threats across the globe to include helping prevent the potential terrorist events over 50 times since 9/11.”

The attacks on would-be targets such as the New York Stock Exchange were prevented by caching telephone metadata and Internet information, including from millions of Americans since Sept. 11, 2001, Gen. Keith Alexander said during a hearing at the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence….READ MORE

Legal Buzz June 18, 2013: Google challenges US gag order, citing First Amendment



Google challenges US gag order, citing First Amendment

Source: Washington Post, 6-18-13

Google asked the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on Tuesday to ease long-standing gag orders over data requests it makes, arguing that the company has a constitutional right to speak about information it’s forced to give the government….READ MORE

Political Headlines June 18, 2013: President Barack Obama: Says NSA Spying Programs ‘Transparent’ in Charlie Rose Interview





President Obama: NSA Spying Programs ‘Transparent’

Source: ABC News Radio,6-18-13


Video of the Interview on Charlie Rose

President Obama said in an interview with PBS’s Charlie Rose on Sunday:

“It is transparent,” Obama said in the interview, broadcast Monday night. “What I’ve asked the intelligence community to do is see how much of this we can declassify without further compromising the program, No. 1,” Obama said. “And they are in that process of doing so now so that everything that I’m describing to you today, people, the public, newspapers, etc., can look at – because, frankly, if people are making judgments just based on these slides that have been leaked, they’re not getting the complete story.”…READ MORE

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

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.

Full Text Political Transcripts June 11, 2013: House Speaker John Boehner’s Interview with George Stephanopoulos on NSA Leak, Immigration Reform And More on ABC News’ Good Morning America — Transcript



Transcript: Exclusive Interview With House Speaker John Boehner on NSA Leak, Immigration Reform And More

Source: ABC News, 6-11-13

RELATED: John Boehner Talks NSA Leaks, IRS Scandal and Immigration With George Stephanopoulos

PHOTO: George Stephanopoulos interviews House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in New York, June 10, 2013.

George Stephanopoulos interviews House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, in New York, June 10, 2013. (ABC News)

House Speaker John Boehner sat down with ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos on “Good Morning America” to discuss the NSA leak, immigration reform, the IRS scandal and much more.

Here is the full transcript of the interview:

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: Speaker, thank you for doin’ this. Let’s talk first about these– revelations about the National Security Agency. Edward Snowden has come forward, said he brought the documents into the public eye. His supporters say he’s– a whistle-blowing patriot. His critics say he’s betrayed the country, broken the law. Where do you stand?

JOHN BOEHNER: He’s a traitor. The president outlined last week that these were important national security programs to help keep Americans safe, and give us tools– to fight the terrorist threat th– that we face. The president also outlined that there are appropriate safeguards in place– to make sure that– there’s– there’s no– snooping, if you will– on Americans– here at home. But– 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….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency June 5, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Speech Appointing Susan Rice as National Security Advisor & Samantha Powers as UN United Nations Ambassador



President Obama Announces New National Security Team Members

Source: WH, 6-5-13

Watch this video on YouTube

Speaking this afternoon from the Rose Garden, President Obama announced several changes to his national security team.
President Obama Makes a National Security Personnel Announcement

President Obama Makes a National Security Personnel Announcement


Remarks by the Presid


President Barack Obama talks with, from left, Samantha Power, former Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, and Ambassador Susan Rice, U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations, in the Oval Office, June 5, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)


Featured in the Following Photo Galleries:

ent in Personnel Announcement

Source: WH, 6-5-13 

Rose Garden

2:17 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)  Thank you.  Please, everybody have a seat.  Well, good afternoon.  It is a beautiful day, and it’s good to see so many friends here.

Of all the jobs in government, leading my national security team is certainly one of the most demanding, if not the most demanding.  And since the moment I took office, I’ve counted on the exceptional experience and insights of Tom Donilon.  Nearly every day for the past several years I’ve started each morning with Tom leading the presidential daily brief, hundreds of times, a sweeping assessment of global developments and the most pressing challenges.  As my National Security Advisor his portfolio is literally the entire world.

He has definitely advanced our strategic foreign policy initiatives while at the same time having to respond to unexpected crises, and that happens just about every day.  He’s overseen and coordinated our entire national security team across the government, a Herculean task.  And it’s non-stop — 24/7, 365 days a year.

Today, I am wistful to announce that after more than four years of extraordinary service, Tom has decided to step aside at the beginning of July.  And I am extraordinarily proud to announce my new National Security Advisor, our outstanding Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice — (applause) — as well as my nominee to replace Susan in New York, Samantha Power.  (Applause.)

When I first asked Tom to join my team, I knew I was getting one of our nation’s premier foreign policy leaders, somebody with a deep sense of history and a keen understanding of our nation’s place in the world.  He shared my view that in order to renew American leadership for the 21st century, we had to fundamentally rebalance our foreign policy.  And more than that, he knew how we could do it.

See, Tom is that rare combination of the strategic and the tactical.  He has a strategic sense of where we need to go, and he has a tactical sense of how to get there.

Moreover, Tom’s work ethic is legendary.  He began his public service in the Carter White House when he was just 22 years old — and, somehow, he has been able to maintain the same drive, and the same stamina, and the same enthusiasm and reverence for serving in government.  He has helped shape every single national security policy of my presidency — from forging a new national security strategy rooted in our economic strength here at home to ending the war in Iraq.  Here at the White House, Tom oversaw the operation that led us to bin Laden.  He’s helped keep our transition on track as we wind down the war in Afghanistan.

At the same time, Tom has played a critical role as we’ve bolstered the enduring pillars of American power — strengthening our alliances, from Europe to Asia; enhancing our relationship with key powers; and moving ahead with new trade agreements and energy partnerships.  And from our tough sanctions on Iran to our unprecedented military and intelligence cooperation with Israel — (baby cries) — it’s true —  (laughter) — from New START with Russia to deeper partnerships with emerging powers like India, to stronger ties with the Gulf states, Tom has been instrumental every step of the way.

I’m especially appreciative to Tom for helping us renew American leadership in the Asia Pacific, where so much of our future security and prosperity will be shaped.  He has worked tirelessly to forge a constructive relationship with China that advances our interests and our values.  And I’m grateful that Tom will be joining me as I meet with President Xi of China this week.

And finally, Tom, I am personally grateful for your advice, for your counsel, and most of all for your friendship.  Whenever we sit down together — whether it’s in the Oval Office or the Situation Room — I do so knowing that you have led a rigorous process:  that you’ve challenged assumptions, that you’ve asked the tough questions, that you’ve led an incredibly hard-working national security staff, and presented me with a range of options to advance our national interests.  A President can’t ask for anything more than that, and this is a testament to your incredible professionalism, but also your deep love of country.

I know that this relentless pace has meant sacrifices for your family — for Cathy, who is here, Dr. Biden’s former Chief of Staff, who I was proud to nominate as our new Global Ambassador for Women; and for Tom and Cathy’s wonderful children, Sarah and Teddy.  So today, I want to publicly thank all the Donilons for their abiding commitment to public service that runs through the family.  (Applause.)

You’ve been with me every step of the way these past four years, and the American people owe you an enormous debt of gratitude for everything that you’ve done.  You’ve helped to restore our nation’s prestige and standing in the world.  You’ve positioned us well to continue to lead in the years ahead.  I think that Tom Donilon has been one of the most effective national security advisors our country has ever had, and he’s done so without a lot of fanfare and a lot of fuss.  So, Tom, on behalf of us all, thank you for your extraordinary service.  (Applause.)

Now, I am proud that this work will be carried on by another exemplary public servant — Ambassador Susan Rice.  (Applause.)  Susan was a trusted advisor during my first campaign for President.  She helped to build my foreign policy team and lead our diplomacy at the United Nations in my first term.  I’m absolutely thrilled that she’ll be back at my side, leading my national security team in my second term.

With her background as a scholar, Susan understands that there is no substitute for American leadership.  She is at once passionate and pragmatic.  I think everybody understands Susan is a fierce champion for justice and human dignity, but she’s also mindful that we have to exercise our power wisely and deliberately.

Having served on the National Security Council staff herself, she knows how to bring people together around a common policy and then push it through to completion — so that we’re making a difference where it matters most, here in the country that we have pledged to defend, and in the daily lives of the people we’re trying to help around the world.

Having served as an Assistant Secretary of State, she knows our policies are stronger when we harness the views and talents of people across government.  So Susan is the consummate public servant — a patriot who puts her country first.  She is fearless; she is tough.  She has a great tennis game and a pretty good basketball game.  (Laughter.)  Her brother is here, who I play with occasionally, and it runs in the family — throwing the occasional elbow — (laughter) — but hitting the big shot.

As our Ambassador to the U.N., Susan has been a tireless advocate in advancing our interests.  She has reinvigorated American diplomacy, in New York.  She has helped to put in place tough sanctions on Iran and North Korea.  She has defended Israel.  She has stood up for innocent civilians, from Libya to Cote d’Ivoire.  She has supported an independent South Sudan.  She has raised her voice for human rights, including women’s rights.

Put simply, Susan exemplifies the finest tradition of American diplomacy and leadership.  So thank you, Susan, for being willing to take on this next assignment.  I’m absolutely confident that you’re going to hit the ground running.  And I know that after years of commuting to New York while Ian, Jake and Maris stayed here in Washington, you will be the first person ever in this job who will see their family more by taking the National Security Advisor’s job.  (Applause.)

Now, normally I’d be worried about losing such an extraordinary person up at the United Nations and be trying to figure out how are we ever going to replace her.  But fortunately, I’m confident we’ve got an experienced, effective and energetic U.N. ambassador-in-waiting in Samantha Power.

Samantha first came to work for me in 2005, shortly after I became a United States senator, as one of our country’s leading journalists; I think she won the Pulitzer Prize at the age of 15 or 16.  One of our foremost thinkers on foreign policy, she showed us that the international community has a moral responsibility and a profound interest in resolving conflicts and defending human dignity.

As a senior member of my national security team, she has been a relentless advocate for American interests and values, building partnerships on behalf of democracy and human rights, fighting the scourge of anti-Semitism and combatting human trafficking.  To those who care deeply about America’s engagement and indispensable leadership in the world, you will find no stronger advocate for that cause than Samantha.

And over the last four years, Samantha has worked hand-in-glove with Susan in her role because Samantha has been the lead White House staffer on issues related to the United Nations.  And I’m fully confident she will be ready on day one to lead our mission in New York while continuing to be an indispensable member of my national security team.

She knows the U.N.’s strengths.  She knows its weaknesses.  She knows that American interests are advanced when we can rally the world to our side.  And she knows that we have to stand up for the things that we believe in.  And to ensure that we have the principled leadership we need at the United Nations, I would strongly urge the Senate to confirm her without delay.

So, Samantha, thank you.  To Cass, and you, and Declan and Rian for continuing to serve our country.

This team of people has been extraordinarily dedicated to America.  They have made America safer.  They have made America’s values live in corners of the world that are crying out for our support and our leadership.  I could not be prouder of these three individuals — not only their intelligence, not only their savvy, but their integrity and their heart.

And I’m very, very proud to have had the privilege of working with Tom.  I’m very proud that I’ll continue to have the privilege of working with Samantha and with Susan.

So with that, I’d invite Tom to say a few words.  Tom.  (Applause.)

MR. DONILON:  Thank you, Mr. President.  You mentioned the many hours that we’ve worked together in the Situation Room, put together here by John Kennedy and without windows.

THE PRESIDENT:  No windows.

MR. DONILON:  No windows.  So I would first like to thank you for this rare opportunity to be outside and experience the natural light.  (Laughter.)

You also mentioned how I began my public service here under President Carter in 1977 when I was 22 years old.  And I still remember leaving at the end of the day, walking up West Executive Drive, past the office of then-National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski, and looking up at the windows of the White House — the light is always on in Zbig’s office, no matter how late.  And I’d think to myself, don’t those guys ever go home?  And now, these many years later, I finally have the answer — no, they don’t go home very much, at least not as often or as early as their spouses and families would like.

Mr. President, to serve in this capacity where we’ve had the opportunity to protect and defend the United States, to improve the position of the United States in the world, has been the privilege of a lifetime.  To serve during your presidency, however, is to serve during one of the defining moments in our nation’s history.  This is because of your vision, your principled leadership, your commitment to defending our interests and upholding our ideals.

Those many hours of meetings and briefings have given me the opportunity to see you as few people do:  behind closed doors, away from the cameras, when a leader’s character is revealed.  And with your permission, I’d like to take this opportunity to share a little bit of what I’ve seen.

First, I’ve seen you make the most difficult decisions a Commander-in-Chief can make — the decision to send our men and women in uniform into harm’s way.  I’ve seen the great care with which you have weighed these grave decisions and I’ve seen your devotion to the families of our men and women in uniform.

I have seen your fierce patriotism, your love of our country.  When confronted with competing agendas and interests, you always bring the discussion back to one question:  What’s in the national interest, what’s best for America?  I’ve seen your abiding commitment to the core values that define us as Americans, our Constitution, civil liberties, the rule of law.  Time and time again, you have reminded us that our decisions must stand up to the judgment of history.

Finally, Mr. President, I’ve seen you represent the United States around the world and what you mean to the people around the world when you represent our country.  When you step off that plane with the words, “United States of America”, when you reach out to foreign audiences and speak to the basic aspirations we share as human beings, you send a clear message that America wants to be their partner.  And that ability to connect, to forge new bonds, is a form of American power and influence that advocates our interests and ideals as well.

To Vice President Biden and Jill, Cathy and I have considered you dear friends for more than 30 years, and it has been an honor to make this journey with you.

To my colleagues and friends here at the White House and across the government, the American people will never truly know how hard you work in their defense.

To my long-time partners in the senior leadership of the National Security Council — Denis McDonough, John Brennan, Tony Blinken, Lisa Monaco, Mike Froman, Ben Rhodes, and Brian McKeon.  I could not have asked for better brothers or sisters in this effort.

To you and all our remarkable national security staff, you’re a national treasure.  And every day you get up, you come here — you devote your days to keeping our country secure.  You are the best our nation has to offer, and it’s been an honor and a privilege to serve with each and every one of you.  And I’m glad so many of you are here today.  (Applause.)

And to my friends and colleagues — Susan and Sam — congratulations, the nation is fortunate to have leaders of your intellect, compassion, character, and determination.  Susan, you’ll be an outstanding National Security Advisor.  Sam, you’ll be an outstanding Ambassador to the United Nations.  And we really appreciate your willingness to do this.  (Applause.)

Finally, and most importantly, to Cathy, Sarah and Teddy — as the President said, this job has meant great sacrifices for you.  And each of you in your way has made a contribution to the country.  And I could not be more grateful.

So again, Mr. President, thank you for the opportunity — the extraordinary opportunity to serve you and to serve our nation.  I stand here — 36 years ago, almost to the day when I first came on the 18 acres of the White House to come to work, and I must tell you I leave this position much less cynical and never more optimistic about our country and its future.  Thank you very much, Mr. President.  (Applause.)


AMBASSADOR RICE:  Mr. President, thank you so much.  I’m deeply honored and humbled to serve our country as your National Security Advisor.  I’m proud to have worked so closely with you for more than six years.  And I’m deeply grateful for your enduring confidence in me.

As you’ve outlined, we have vital opportunities to seize and ongoing challenges to confront.  We have much still to accomplish on behalf of the American people.  And I look forward to continuing to serve on your national security team to keep our nation strong and safe.

Tom, it’s been a real honor to work with you again.  You have led with great dedication, smarts, and skill, and you leave a legacy of enormous accomplishment.  All of us around the principals’ table will miss you.  And I wish you and Cathy, and your family, all the very best.

Above all, I want to thank my own wonderful family for their unfailing support — my mother, Lois; my wonderful husband, Ian; our children Jake and Maris; and my brother, John, have all been my strength and my greatest source of humor.  I’m also thinking today about my late father, who would have loved to be here.  I’m forever grateful to my family for their love and sacrifice.

I want to thank my remarkable colleagues at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations.  I am so proud of the work we’ve done together under your leadership, Mr. President, to advance America’s interests at the United Nations.

And, Samantha, my friend — warmest congratulations.  You’re a tremendous colleague, and the United States will be extremely well served by your leadership at the United Nations.  And I’m so glad we get to continue to work together.

Mr. President, having participated in the national security decision-making process over the last four years, I admire the exemplary work done every day by our colleagues at State, Defense, the intelligence community, and across the government to make our nation more secure.  I look forward to working closely with you, your extraordinary national security team, our country’s most experienced leaders from both parties, and your superb national security staff to protect the United States, advance our global leadership, and promote the values Americans hold dear.

Thank you very much.

Sam.  (Applause.)

MS. POWER:  Thank you, Mr. President.  From the day I met you and you told me that you had spent a chunk of your vacation reading a long, dark book on genocide — (laughter) — I knew you were a different kind of leader, and I knew I wanted to work for you.

It has been my privilege here at the White House to serve you, and it would be the honor of a lifetime to fight for American values and interests at the United Nations.  Now that I have two small children, Declan and Rian — somewhere — the stakes feel even higher.

Thank you, Tom and Susan.  I consider myself immensely fortunate these last four years to have collaborated with both of you.  There are two no more dedicated professionals on this Earth, no more strategic stewards of our foreign policy than these two individuals.  And I’m honored and immensely humbled to share the stage with you.

I moved to the United States from Ireland when I — with my parents, who are here — when I was 9 years old.  I remember very little about landing in Pittsburgh, except that I was sure I was at the largest airport in the history of the world.  I do remember what I was wearing — a red, white and blue stars and stripes t-shirt.  It was the t-shirt I always wore in Ireland on special occasions.

Even as a little girl with a thick Dublin accent who had never been to America, I knew that the American flag was the symbol of fortune and of freedom.  But I quickly came to learn that to find opportunity in this country, one didn’t actually need to wear the flag, one just needed to try to live up to it.

For the next three months, I came home from school every day, as my mother can attest, my dad can attest, and I sat in front of the mirrors for hours, straining to drop my brogue so that I, too, could quickly speak and be American.

Not long ago, my husband, Cass Sunstein, came across a letter written toward the end of World War II by his father, Dick Sunstein, who was a Navy lieutenant.  Dick had happened to stop briefly in San Francisco after his two years fighting for this country in the Pacific, and he wrote to his family on April 25th, 1945, the very day that the nations of the world were coming together in San Francisco to establish the new United Nations.

And in this letter to my mother-in-law, who I never had the chance to meet, he wrote, excitedly, “Conference starts today.  The town is going wild with excitement.  It is a pleasure to be here for the opening few days.  Let’s pray that they accomplish something.”

Let’s pray that they accomplish something.  The question of what the United Nations can accomplish for the world and for the United States remains a pressing one.  I have seen U.N. aid workers enduring shellfire to deliver food to the people of Sudan.  Yet I’ve also see U.N. peacekeepers fail to protect the people of Bosnia.  As the most powerful and inspiring country on this Earth, we have a critical role to play in insisting that the institution meet the necessities of our time.  It can do so only with American leadership.

It would be an incomparable privilege to earn the support of the Senate and to play a role in this essential effort, one on which our common security and common humanity depend.  Thank you.  (Applause.)

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you, everybody.  (Applause.)

2:41 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines May 31, 2013: Eric Holder Tells News Media Outlets in Meetings Justice Department Leak Guidelines Will Change





Eric Holder Tells Media Outlets Leak Guidelines Will Change

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-31-13

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The Justice Department will weigh journalists’ concerns and modify its guidelines for investigating potential national security leaks, Attorney General Eric Holder told media outlets Friday….READ MORE

Political Headlines May 30, 2013: President Barack Obama to Nominate James Comey for FBI Director





Obama to Nominate James Comey to Lead FBI

Source: ABC News Radio, 5-30-13

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

President Obama is preparing to nominate James Comey, a former deputy attorney general in the President George W. Bush administration, as the next director of the FBI. Still, a formal announcement could be weeks away….READ MORE

Political Headlines April 21, 2013: President Barack Obama & National Security Team Meet After Arrest of Bombing Suspect





Obama, National Security Team Meet After Arrest of Bombing Suspect

Source: ABC News Radio, 4-21-13

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

President Obama and his national security team met on Saturday in the wake of Friday night’s dramatic arrest of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the surviving suspect of the terror attack at the Boston Marathon.

The weekend meeting lasted 90 minutes and was attended by FBI Director Robert Mueller, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, CIA director John Brennan, Attorney General Eric Holder and other members of the National Security Council, according to a White House statement….READ MORE

Full Text Obama Presidency March 27, 2013: President Barack Obama’s Remarks at Swearing-in Ceremony of Julia Pierson as the irst Female Director of the US Secret Service



Julia Pierson Is Sworn In As First-Ever Female Director of the US Secret Service

Source: WH, 3-27-13

President Obama watches as Vice President Joe Biden administers the oath of office to incoming U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson, March 27, 2013.President Barack Obama watches as Vice President Joe Biden administers the oath of office to incoming U.S. Secret Service Director Julia Pierson during a swearing-in ceremony in the Oval Office, March 27, 2013. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

A highly respected veteran of the Secret Service was sworn in as head of that agency today in a ceremony in the Oval Office. President Obama watched as Vice President Joe Biden administered the oath to Julia Pierson, and praised her dedication, professionalism and commitment to her work….READ MORE

Remarks by the President at Swearing-in Ceremony of Julia Pierson as the Director of the U.S. Secret Service

Source: WH, 3-27-13 

Oval Office

3:16 P.M. EDT

(The Vice President administers the oath to Ms. Pierson.)

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  Congratulations.

THE PRESIDENT:  Great job.

MS. PIERSON:  Thank you very much, Mr. President.

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you so much.  Well, listen, I have to say that Julia’s reputation within the Service is extraordinary.  She’s come up through the ranks.  She’s done just about every job there is to do at the Secret Service.

Obviously, she’s breaking the mold in terms of directors of the agency, and I think that people are all extraordinarily proud of her.  And we have the greatest confidence in the wonderful task that lies ahead and very confident that she is going to do a great job.  So we just want to say congratulations.

As Joe Biden pointed out, this person now probably has more control over our lives than anyone else — (laughter) — except for our spouses.  And I couldn’t be placing our lives in better hands than Julia’s.

THE VICE PRESIDENT:  And my agents are excited that we picked her.

THE PRESIDENT:  Absolutely.  You’re going to do a great job.

Q    How did you make your decision?

THE PRESIDENT:  She has extraordinary qualifications, and I think a lot of people who have worked with Julia know how dedicated, how professional, how committed she is, and I think are absolutely certain that she’s going to thrive in this job.

Thank you, guys.

Q    How are you feeling about your bracket, sir?

THE PRESIDENT:  Busted.  (Laughter.)  I think my women’s bracket is doing much better than my men’s bracket.

3:18 P.M. EDT

Political Headlines March 27, 2013: Julia Pierson Sworn In as First Female Secret Service Director





Julia Pierson Sworn In as First Female Secret Service Director

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-27-13

Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images

President Obama on Wednesday praised the qualifications of his pick to lead the U.S. Secret Service, as Julia Pierson was sworn in as the agency’s first female director.

“I have to say that Julia’s reputation within the service is extraordinary,” Obama told reporters. “She’s come up through the ranks, she’s done just about every job there is to do at the Secret Service.”…READ MORE

Political Headlines March 8, 2013: Rand Paul’s Near 13-Hour Filibuster Receives Mixed Reviews & Criticism from Sens. John McCain & Lindsey Graham





Rand Paul’s Near 13-Hour Filibuster Receives Mixed Reviews

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-7-13

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid praised Sen. Rand Paul’s stamina and conviction after his nearly 13-hour filibuster, but some of Paul’s Republican colleagues were less than impressed with the Kentucky senator’s marathon effort….READ MORE

Political Headlines March 7, 2013: Senate Confirms John Brennan as CIA Director with a Vote of 63-34





Senate Confirms John Brennan as CIA Director

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-7-13

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

Senator Rand Paul’s nearly thirteen hour filibuster may have started a conversation about U.S. drone policy, but it didn’t stop John Brennan from becoming CIA director.

Senators voted to 63 – 34 to elevate President Obama’s top counter-terrorism adviser at the White House to lead the Central Intelligence Agency after Paul, R-Ky., dropped his opposition to a vote Thursday afternoon….READ MORE

Political Headlines March 7, 2013: Sens. John McCain, Lindsey Graham rebuke Sen. Rand Paul for filibuster over drones





McCain, Graham rebuke Sen. Paul for filibuster over drones

Source: Fox News, 3-7-13

Sen. Rand Paul’s 13-hour filibuster over the government’s drone program drew praise from conservatives, libertarians and progressives alike who said the firebrand Kentucky senator focused a spotlight on a critical issue….READ MORE

Political Headlines March 7, 2013: Rand Paul’s Filibuster Speech on John Brennan CIA Nomination — Video





1:22:55 030613 – Sen. Rand Paul Senate Filibuster HOUR 11 SenatorRandPaul

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Political Headlines March 7, 2013: Rand Paul Ends Nearly 13-Hour Filibuster Against John Brennan





Rand Paul Ends Nearly 13-Hour Filibuster Against John Brennan

Source: ABC News Radio, 3-7-13

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

At 12:39 a.m. Eastern time Thursday, Sen. Rand Paul ended his filibuster blocking John Brennan’s nomination to head the CIA in protest of the Obama administration’s policy that allows the potential use of drones to fight terrorism on U.S. soil.

Paul yielded the floor just shy of 13 hours.  The late Sen. Strom Thurmond holds the record for a filibuster.  The South Carolina Republican filibustered the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1957 for 24 hours and 18 minutes….READ MORE

Political Headlines March 7, 2013: Rand Paul pulls plug on drones filibuster





Rand Paul pulls plug on drones filibuster

Source: Politico, 3-6-13

Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul staged the longest talking filibuster in recent Senate memory on Wednesday into early Thursday, railing with his colleagues for more than 12 hours against what they called the danger of drone strikes to U.S. citizens on American soil….READ MORE

Political Headlines March 7, 2013: Sen. Rand Paul Ends Filibuster of John Brennan’s CIA Senate Confirmation After Nearly 13 Hours





Rand Paul ends filibuster

Sen. Rand Paul’s filibuster #filiblizzard lasted 12hrs 52min (11:47am – 12:39am ET)

Source: CNN, 3-7-13

After almost 13 hours, Sen. Rand Paul yielded the Senate floor, ending his filibuster over the nomination of John Brennan for CIA head….READ MORE

Full Text Political Headlines March 6, 2013: Rand Paul’s Filibuster Speech on John Brennan CIA Nomination — Transcript





UNOFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT: Sen. Rand Paul Filibuster of Brennan Nomination

Source: Paul.Senate.gov, 3-6-13

Rand Paul

UNOFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT: Hour 7 – Sen. Rand Paul Filibuster of Brennan Nomination
Today, Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor to participate in an active filibuster of President Obama’s nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan. Sen. Paul’s remarks began at 11:47 a.m. ET, and as of this release, he is still participating in the filibuster. Below is video and an unofficial transcript of his remarks between approximately 5:47 p.m.-6:47 p.m. The following links will direct you to hours 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.
UNOFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT: Hour 6 – Sen. Rand Paul Filibuster of Brennan Nomination
Today, Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor to participate in an active filibuster of President Obama’s nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan. Sen. Paul’s remarks began at 11:47 a.m. ET, and as of this release, he is still participating in the filibuster. Below is video and an unofficial transcript of his remarks between approximately 4:47 p.m.-5:47 p.m. The following links will direct you to hours 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5.

UNOFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT: Hour 5 – Sen. Rand Paul Filibuster of Brennan Nomination Today, Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor to participate in an active filibuster of President Obama’s nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan. Sen. Paul’s remarks began at 11:47 a.m. ET, and as of this release, he is still participating in the filibuster. Below is video and an unofficial transcript of his remarks between approximately 3:47 p.m.-4:47 p.m. Click HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE for video and transcript of hours 1, 2, 3, and 4.

UNOFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT: Hour 4 – Sen. Rand Paul Filibuster of Brennan Nomination
Today, Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor to participate in an active filibuster of President Obama’s nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan. Sen. Paul’s remarks began at 11:47 a.m. ET, and as of this release, he is still participating in the filibuster. Below is video and an unofficial transcript of his remarks between approximately 2:47 p.m.-3:47 p.m. Click HERE, HERE, and HERE for video and transcript of hours 1, 2, and 3.
UNOFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT: Hour 3 – Sen. Rand Paul Filibuster of Brennan Nomination
Today, Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor to participate in an active filibuster of President Obama’s nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan. Sen. Paul’s remarks began at 11:47 a.m. ET, and as of this release, he is still participating in the filibuster. Below is video and an unofficial transcript of his remarks between approximately 1:47 p.m.-2:47 p.m. Click HERE and HERE for video and transcript of hours 1 and 2.   CLICK HERE TO WATCH HOUR 3 OF SEN. PAUL’S FILIBUSTER

UNOFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT: Hour 2 – Sen. Rand Paul Filibuster of Brennan Nomination
Today, Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor to participate in an active filibuster of President Obama’s nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan. Sen. Paul’s remarks began at 11:47 a.m. ET, and as of this release, he is still participating in the filibuster. Below is video and an unofficial transcript of his remarks between approximately 12:47 p.m.-1:47 p.m. The first hour of Sen. Paul’s filibuster can be found HERE.

UNOFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT: Hour 1 – Sen. Rand Paul Filibuster of Brennan Nomination
Today, Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor to participate in an active filibuster of President Obama’s nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan. Sen. Paul’s remarks began at 11:47 a.m. ET, and as of this release, he is still participating in the filibuster. Below is video and an unofficial, rough transcript of his remarks between 11:47 a.m. and 12:47 p.m.

Full Text Political Headlines March 6, 2013: Rand Paul’s Filibuster Speech on John Brennan CIA Nomination — Hour 7 Transcript





UNOFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT: Hour 7 – Sen. Rand Paul Filibuster of Brennan Nomination

Source: Paul.Senate.gov, 3-6-13

Today, Sen. Rand Paul took to the Senate floor to participate in an active filibuster of President Obama’s nominee for director of the Central Intelligence Agency, John Brennan. Sen. Paul’s remarks began at 11:47 a.m. ET, and as of this release, he is still participating in the filibuster. Below is video and an unofficial transcript of his remarks between approximately 5:47 p.m.-6:47 p.m. The following links will direct you to hours 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6.



I think that’s a good way of putting it, because when you think about it, obviously they’re killing some bad people. This is war. There’s been some short-term good. The question is, does the short-term good outweigh the long term cost, not only just in dollars but the long-term cost of whether or not we’re encouraging a next generation of terrorists?

This is a quote from Bruce Riedel, a former CIA Analyst. He says, “The problems with the drones is it’s like your lawn mower. You got to mow the lawn all the time, the minute you stop mowing, the grass is going to grow back. Maybe there is an infinite number of terrorists. Maybe the drone strikes aren’t the ultimate answer. There is a billion Muslims in the world, maybe there needs to be some component of this that isn’t just the killing fields. I’m not saying that many of these people aren’t allied against us and would attack and they don’t deserve to die. I’m just not sure that it is the ultimate earns the ultimate way. I’m also concerned that many of the people who are the strongest proponents of this are also the ones that want to bring the war to America and say that America is part of this perpetual battlefield.

The United States now operates multiple drone programs, including acknowledged U.S. Military patrols over conflicted zones in Afghanistan and Libya and classified CIA surveillance flights over Iran. Strikes against al Quaed are carried out under secret lethal programs involving the CIA and the JSOC. The matrix was developed by the NCTC to augment those organizations separate with overlapping kill lists. The result is a single continually evolving database in which biographies, locations, known associates, and affiliated organizations are all cataloged. So are strategies for taking targets down. Including extradition requests capture operations and drone patrols. Obama’s decision to shutter the CIA’S secret prisoners ended a program that had become a source of international scorn but it also complicated the pursuit of terrorists. Unless a suspect surfaced on the sight of a drone, the United States had to scramble to figure out what to do. We had a disposition proficiency said a former U.S. Counterterrorism official.

The database is meant to map out contingencies, create an operational menu that spells out each agencies role in case a suspect surfaces in an unexpected spot. If he’s in Saudi Arabia picked up by the Saudis, if traveling overseas to al-Shabaab, we can pick him up by ship. If in Yemen, kill or have the Yemenis pick him up. There’s been some discussion as to what to do with these people. It is a complicated situation. But I think the take-home message from all of this is what we’re stuck in is a very messy sort of decision making, a type of decision making that I don’t think is appropriate for the homeland Is appropriate for the United States. I think the idea that in the United States that this is to be a battlefield and that you don’t need an attorney, you don’t need a court, you don’t get due process is really repugnant to the American people and should be.

I think it’s something that we have given up on too easily if we let the President dictate the terms of this. If the President is unwilling to say clearly and unequivocally that he is not going to kill noncombatants in America, I don’t think we should tolerate that. I think there should be a huge outcry and the President should come forward and explain his position. This discussion tonight really isn’t so much about John Brennan. It isn’t about his nomination so much as it’s about whether or not we believe that in America there are some rights that are so special that we’re not willing to give up on these. So as we move forward into this debate, it’s not really about who gets nominated to be the head of the CIA It’s about principles that are bigger than the people. It’s about something bigger and larger than the people involved. It’s about Constitutional principles that really we shouldn’t give up on.

I think we should all judge as inadequate the President’s response when he says he hasn’t killed Americans in America yet, he doesn’t intend to, but that he might. I don’t think that that is a response that we should tolerate. And so as we move forward in this debate, we need to understand and we need to fight for something that is classically American, something that we are proud of and something that our soldiers fight for, and that is our rights, our individual rights, our right to be seen as an American, to be tried in a court by our peers, and I think if we were to give up on that, it’s a huge mistake. One of the things we have to ask is what kind of standard will there be? If there is going to be a program in America, what kind of standard, you know? If we’re going to kill Americans in America, what kind of standard will there be? If the standard is to be sympathy, you can imagine the craziness of this. Mr. President, I would at this time yield for a question without yielding the floor to my colleague from Kansas.

SEN. MORAN: Mr. President?

The presiding officer: The Senator from Kansas.

SEN. MORAN: Mr. President, thank you. Through the chair, I – through the president, I would like to ask the senator from Kentucky a couple of questions. I have been listening to the – to the conversation to the debate, to the discussion here on the senate floor throughout the afternoon, and I am – I would ask the senator from Kentucky these questions – is it not true that the constitution of the United States is a document designed to protect the freedoms and liberties of Americans? Often, the Constitution, I believe, I would ask again the Senator from Kentucky, is the document while sometimes perceived to be a grant of authority is not really the main purpose of the United States Constitution to make sure that the American people enjoy certain liberties and freedoms that the founding fathers who wrote that document believe were important for American citizens, and whether or not that’s true, I will let the gentleman from Kentucky tell me, but if that is the case, if it is Constitutional to intentionally kill an American citizen in the United States without due process of law, then what is not Constitutional under the United States Constitution? If the conclusion is reached as the administration – at least is unwilling to say is not the case, if the conclusion is reached that it is within the powers of the Constitution for the Executive to allow for the killing of an American citizen in the United States, then what is left in our Constitution that would prohibit other behavior? If you can go this far, what liberties remain for Americans?

SEN. PAUL: Ultimately, the question is who gets to decide? Does the President get to decide unilaterally that he is going to do this, and how would you challenge it? You know, if you’re dead, you have a tough time challenging basically his authority to do this. But no, I can’t imagine any way that you can usurp and go beyond the Constitutional requirements in the United States. I see no way he can do that, and I can’t imagine that he would even assert such a thing. But it still boggles the mind that he won’t explicitly say that he will not do this.

SEN. MORAN: Request the President to ask a question of the Senator from Kentucky. Again in the absence of the assurance or the statement from the administration, from the President of the United States or his attorney general, the appropriate venue of the Senator from Kentucky is not the appropriate venue for us to insist upon that – that answer. Is it not appropriate for this to be the venue on which, the United States Senate, made clear that it is unconstitutional in our view for the death of united states a United States citizen in the United States by military action, this is the opportune moment because of the pending confirmation of the nomination of the head of the Central Intelligence Agency. And so while today’s order of business really is an administrative appointment, is this issue not so important that we need to utilize this moment, this time in the United States Senate to make certain that that question is answered in a way that makes clear not only for today and for the current occupant of the CIA And its administration, but for all future Americans, all future CIA’S, all future military leaders that it is clear that in the united states American citizens cannot be killed without due process of law.

SEN. PAUL: Mr. President, I think it’s a good point. I think it’s also a point to be made that that would be also one resolution to this impasse would be to have a resolution come forward from the Senate saying exactly that, that our understanding is – and this has been something that Senator Cruz and I have discussed – is that whether or not we should limit the President’s power by legislation or by resolution, basically saying that repelling an imminent threat is something the President can do but killing noncombatants is not something that’s allowed under the Constitution. I think the courts would rule that way should the courts ever have to rule on this, but it would be much simpler and more healthy for the country if the president would simply come out publicly and say that.

SEN. MORAN: Finally, I would ask the Senator from Kentucky, while this opportunity to discuss this issue on the Senate floor has occurred today, it certainly is an opportunity for the American people to understand a significant basic Constitutional right may be at stake, and while the Senator from Kentucky has led this discussion, I would ask him has he now received as a result of bringing this attention to this issue any additional reassurances from the Attorney General or the President of the United States that the administration agrees that there is no Constitutional right to end the life of an American citizen using a drone flying over the lands of the United States and attacking a united states citizen?

SEN. PAUL: Mr. President, since we began this today, I have had no communication from the White House or the Attorney General. The only thing we have gotten indirectly was that the Attorney General was before the Judiciary Committee today and that he did seem to backtrack or acknowledge a little bit under withering cross-examination – he was not very forthcoming in saying that what we would like to hear is that they will not kill noncombatants in America, but I think that’s still a possibility from them, and I think his answers weren’t inconsistent with that, but you would think it would be a little bit easier and they would make it easier on everyone, and you would think they would want to reassure the public that they have no intention – not just they have no intention but that they won’t kill Americans.

SEN. MORAN: Again, Mr. President, to the Senator from Kentucky, while there is a significant important issue before the United States Senate today and that is the confirmation of the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency, I would ask the senator from Kentucky is this – is not the more important issue, the less pedestrian issue that we face here on the Senate floor and in the United States of America one that has been with us throughout our history? One that was with us when the Constitution was written and one that is with us every day thereafter, and that is what are the meanings of the words contained in the United States Constitution and what do they mean for everyday citizens that they know that their own government is constrained by a document created now more than 200 years ago? Is that not the most important question that faces our country, its citizens on a daily, ongoing basis?

SEN. PAUL: I think American citizens get that, but not only that, I come from a state that has two large military bases. When our soldiers go off, when I talk to them, they talk of fighting for our Bill of Rights; they talk of fighting for our Constitution. They don’t think they are going off to conquer any people. They
— they truly believe and they honestly appraise that they are fighting for our Bill of Rights. So that’s why I see this as somewhat of an insult to our soldiers to say that – and to insinuate somehow that the Bill of Rights just isn’t so important, that our fear is going to guide us away or take us away from something so fundamental and so important. But I think Americans do realize that the protections of having a jury trial are incredibly important and that assessing guilt is not always easy when you’re accused of a crime. I think that Americans do know that it’s really important to try to get it right when someone is accused of a crime, and so I think the American people are with us in wanting to find these answers, and you’re right that this isn’t ultimately about the nomination. This is about a question that’s bigger I think than any individual, and it’s about something that our country was founded upon, and that’s basically the individual rights.

SEN. MORAN: Mr. President, I thank the Senator from Kentucky for responding to my questions.

SEN. PAUL: Mr. President, we have had a good and healthy debate today. I think we have hit upon a few points. We may have even hit a couple of points more than once. I think that it’s a – when we think about and put in perspective so many of the battles that we have up here are battles that I think the American public sometimes is disgusted with. They see a lot of things that we do as petty and partisan, and sometimes I see disagreements up here who I think are completely partisan and completely petty on both sides, but I think this issue is different in the sense that this isn’t about this particular individual and their nomination. I have actually voted for the President’s first three nominations to his cabinet, so I haven’t taken a partisan position that the President can’t nominate his – his political appointees. I have looked carefully at the nominees. I have asked for more information. I have true I had to extend debate on some of the nominees. But in the end I voted for three out of three and many of the judges that the President has put forward. Not because I necessarily agree with their politics. I don’t agree with much of the President’s politics. In fact one of the few things I did agree with the President on was the idea of civil liberties, was the idea that you don’t tap someone’s phone without a – warrant a warrant, that you don’t torture Americans and really that you don’t kill Americans without due process. These are things that really I thought the president and I agreed on.

So I’m not so sure exactly, you know, where we stand with that. And I actually kind of think that probably he still does agree with me, or I still agree with him. But the question is, why can’t he publicly go ahead and announce that he’s not going to combatants?

SEN. PAUL: The resolution that we’ve talked about. And this resolution says, “To express the sense of the Senate against the use of drones to execute American citizens on American soil.” “Expressing the sense of the Senate against the use of drones to execute American citizens on American soil.” “Resolved that it is the sense of the Senate that the use of drones to execute or target American citizens on American soil who pose no imminent threat clearly violates the Constitutional due process of rights. The American people deserve a clear, concise and unequivocal public statement from the President of the United States that contains detailed legal reasoning, including but not limited to the balance between national security and due process, limits of Executive power, and distinction between the treatment of citizens and noncitizens within and outside the borders of the United States. The use of lethal force against American citizens and the use of drones in the application of the lethal force within the united states territory.”

SEN. PAUL: There’s another article that I think is of interest and this is another article by Spencer Ackerman in “Wired.” This talks about once again the signature strikes and the idea that basically we’re killing people whose names we don’t know. The title of this was “CIA Drones kill large groups without knowing who they are.” The expansion of the CIA’s undeclared drone war into the tribal areas of Pakistan required a big expansion of who can be marked for death. Once the standard for targeted killings was top-level leaders in al Qaeda or one of its allies, that’s long gone, especially as the number of people targeted have grown. This is the new standard, according to a blockbuster piece in the “Wall Street Journal.” Men believed to be militants associated with terrorist groups but whose identities aren’t always known may be targeted. The CIA Is now killing people without knowing who they are on suspicion of association with terrorist groups. The article does not define the standards but the standards are said to be suspicion and association.

While this is overseas, it kind of gets to the point we’ve been talking about, is what is the standard that will be used in America? If we are to have drone strikes in America, what is the standard that we will use? Is it a standard that says that you have to be suspicious or that you have to be associated? Strikes targeting those people, usually groups of such people, are what we call signature strikes. The bulk of CIA’S drone strikes are signature strikes now, which is a remarkable thing. So what we’re talking about
— and that’s one of the reasons why we’re concerned here, because if the President claims that he can do strikes in America and the bulk of the current strikes overseas are signature strikes, wouldn’t it be worrisome that we could kill people in America without even knowing their name? The bulk of the CIA Strikes now are signature strikes, it was written in the “Wall Street Journal” in an article by Adam Entoise and Siobhan Gorman and Julian Barnes. And the bulk really means the bulk. The “journal” reports that the growth in clusters of people targeted by the CIA Has required the agency to tell its Pakistani counterparts about mass attacks. So we’re talking about pretty significant attacks here. They’re only notifying them when they’re going to kill more than 20 at a time. Determining who is a target is not a question of intelligence collection. The cameras on the CIA Fleet of predators and reapers work just fine. It’s a question of intelligence analysis, interpreting the imagery collected from the drones from the spies and spotters below to understand who’s a terrorist and who, say, drops off the terrorist’s laundry. Admittedly, in a war with a shadowy enemy, it can be difficult to distinguish between the two.

So the question is: Is this the kind of standard we will use in the United States? Will we use a standard where people don’t have to be named? We don’t know. The president has indicated that his drone strikes in America will have different rules than his drone strikes outside of America but we’ve heard no rules on what those drone strikes will be. So we have drone strikes inside and outside. They’re going to have different rules. But we already know that a large percentage of the drone strikes overseas were not naming the person. Is that going to be the standard? We also know that we have targeted people for sympathizing with the enemy. We talked about that before. In this 1960’s, we had many people who sympathized with North Vietnam. Many people will remember Jane Fonda swiveling herself around in a North Vietnamese artilleries and thinking gleefully that she was just right at home with the North Vietnamese. Now, while I’m not a great fan of Jane Fonda, I’m really not so interested in putting her on a drone kill list either. We’ve had many people who have dissented in our country. We’ve had people in our country who have been against the afghan war, against the Iraq war. I was opposed to the Iraq war.

There have been people who are against the government on occasion. What are the criteria for who will be killed? Does the Fifth Amendment apply? Will the list be secret or not secret? Can you kill noncombatants? And people say, well, the president would never kill noncombatants. The problem is, is that’s who we’re killing overseas. Now, we are alleging that they may be conspiring someday to be combatants or they might have been yesterday, but are we going to take that same kind of standard and use it in America? Are we going to have a standard that if you’re, you know, on your ipad typing e-mails in a cafe, that you can be targeted for a drone strike? These are – these are not questions that are inconsequential. These are questions that should be known and these are questions that should be public. These are questions that should be discussed in congress. These are questions – in fact, we shouldn’t be asking him for drone memos. We should be giving him drone memos. We shouldn’t be asking him how he’s going to run the drone program. We should be telling him how he’s to run the drone program. That is our authority. We’ve abdicated our authority. We have – we don’t do what we’re supposed to. We are supposed to be the checks and balances, but we’ve let the President make these decisions because we have largely abdicated our responsibility.

In this Spencer Ackerman story from “Wired,” he talks about and goes on to say, “fundamentally, though, it’s a question of policy. Whether it’s acceptable for the CIA To kill someone without truly knowing if he’s the bomb smith or the laundry guy. The journal reports that the CIA’S willingness to strike without such knowledge, sanctioned in full by President Barack Obama, is causing problems for the State Department and the military. As we’ve written this week, the high volume of drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas contributes to Pakistani intransigence on another issue of huge importance to the U.S. Convincing Pakistan to deliver the insurgent groups it sponsors to peace talks aimed at ending the Afghan war. The drones don’t cause that intransigence. Pakistani leaders, after all, cooperate with the drones and exploit popular anti-American sentiment to shake down Washington. The strike – the strikes become cards for Pakistan to play, however cynically.” And I think that’s quite true of Pakistan, they play both sides to the middle and they play both sides to get more money from us. I think they have been complicit in the drone attacks and then they complain about them publicly.

They have two faces: One – one to their people and one privately to us. But the question is: Have we gotten more involved in Pakistan other than al Qaeda leaders and have we gotten more involved in Pakistan that involves more of people who want to be free of their central government?

Ultimately we as a country need to figure out how to end war. We’ve had the war in Afghanistan for 12 years now. The war basically has authorized a worldwide war. Not only am I worried about the perpetual nature of the war, am I worried – I’m also worried about the geographic, that there’s no geographic limitations to the war. But I’m particularly concerned and what today has all been about is that I’m worried that they say that the United States is the battlefield now. My side, their side, the President. Everybody thinks that America’s the battlefield. The problem is, they also think you don’t get due process on a battlefield. And largely they’re correct. When you’re overseas on a battlefield, it’s hard to have due process. We’re not going to ask for Miranda rights before we shoot people in battle. But America is different. So one of the most important things I hope that will come from today is that people will say and people will listen, how do we end the war in Iraq? How do we end the war in Afghanistan? I tried to get a vote – I did get a vote, I tried to end the Iraq war two years after it ended by taking away the authorization of use of force and I still couldn’t get that voted on. It’s even more important not to end the war in Iraq but ultimately to end the war in Afghanistan. Because the war in Afghanistan, the use of authorization of force, is used to create a worldwide war without limitations. To create a war that some say the battlefield is here at home. This battlefield being here at home means you don’t get due process at home. There have been members of the Senate stand up and say, when they ask you for a lawyer, you tell them to shut up. Is that the kind of due process we want in our country? Is that what we’re moving towards? So the questions we’re asking here are important questions.  And these questions are: Does the bill of rights apply? Can they have exceptions to the bill of rights?

SEN. PAUL: One of the articles from “National Review” recently was by Kevin Williamson. We got into this a little bit earlier. And I thought it was an important article because it talked about, you know, what our concern is, is about what standard we will use, what will be the standard for how we kill Americans, in America. And he talks a little bit about how his belief is that Awlaki was targeted mainly as a propagandaists. And the interesting thing about Awlaki is before he was targeted, we actually invited him to the Pentagon. We considered him to be a moderate Islamist for a while. We invited him to the Pentagon. I think he actually gave and did prayers in the Capitol at one point. So the question is: If we made a mistake the first time about whether he was our friend and I think we did could you make a mistake on the other end? The question is, is if the government’s to decide who are sympathizers and people who are politicians with no checks and balances are to decide who is a sympathizer, is there a danger really that people who have political dissent could be included in this?

The way Williamson describes Awlaki was “he was first and foremost an al Qaeda propagandist. He was a preach and a blogger who first began to provoke U.S. Authorities through the online bile that earned him the title the bin Laden of the internet. Was he an active participant in planning acts of terrorism against the U.S.? The F.B.I. Did not think so, at least in the wake of 9/11 attacks. The Bureau interviewed him four times and concluded that he was not involved. The Defense Department famously invited him to dine at the pentagon as part of the Islamicic outreach efforts, and in 2002, he was conducting prayers in the U.S. Capitol. Throughout the following years, Awlaki became a sort of al Qaeda gadfly, dangerous principally because he was fluent in English and therefore a more effective propagandist. It was not until the first Obamas that Awlaki was promoted by U.S. Authorities from propagandist to operations man. You may remember the context. The Obama administration had been planning to try 9/11 conspirators in New York City when the country was thrown into a panic by the machinations of the would-be under pants bomber.

‘The Obama administration in an interesting about-face, whereas it had been planning to try cha lead Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and his co-conspirators there, definitively turning our national back on Gitmo, turned around and made the decision that it couldn’t do it in New York. Awlaki was a part of this. He was a propagandist and part of this. They said that Abdullah Mutab actually sought out Awlaki in Yemen and Awlaki had blessed his bomb plot and had even introduced him to a bomb maker. This according to the Obama administration is what justified treating Awlaki as a man at arms, earning him a place on the secret national hit list.”

Williamson asked this question, though. He says “if sympathizing with our enemies and propagandizing on their behalf is equivalent to making war on the country, then the Johnson and Nixon administrations should have bombed every elite college in America in the early 1960’s. And as satisfied– these were his words, not mine– as satisfying as putting Jane Fonda on a kill list might have been, I don’t think our understanding of the law would have approved such a thing even though she did give communist aid to the aggressor in Vietnam. Students in Ann Arbor, Michigan, were actively and openly raising funds for the Vietcong throughout the war.” Would it have been proper to put them on kill lists? I don’t know.

Williams says “I don’t think so. There is a difference between sympathizing with our enemies and taking up arms against the country.” They aren’t the same thing. So we have to ask ourselves what is the standard? Could political dissent be part of the standard for drone strikes? And you say well, that’s ridiculous.

We have listed people already on web sites and said that they were a risk for terrorism for their political beliefs. The fusion center in Missouri listed people who were pro-life origin, listed people who believed in strong borders of immigration. They listed people who were supporters of third-party candidates, the Constitution party or the Libertarian party. These people were listed and a mailing sent out to all the police in the state to beware of these people, beware of people who have bumper stickers on their cars supporting these people. That to me sounds dangerously close to having a standard where the standard is sympathy, not for your enemies but sympathy for unpopular ideas or ideas that aren’t popular with the government. That concerns me, and it concerns me whether or not we could have in our country a standard that’s less than the Constitution. The Constitution is the standard I just can’t imagine that we would want to give up on this standard or that any president could assert that the standard would not be the Constitution.

There was an article in “Human Rights First.” This is an article that was published in December 2012. It begins with this this prefacing statement. “The United States is establishing precedence that other nations may follow, and not all of them will be nations that share our interests or the premiums we put on protecting human life. Including innocent citizens.” This was a statement by John Brennan. I think it’s a statement that actually carries some weight and should be thought through. The reason why I say that this filibuster is not so much about Brennan as it’s about a Constitutional principle. The Obama administration has dramatically escalated targeted killing by drones as a central feature of counterterrorism response.

Mr. President, at this time I have a unanimous consent request, and I’d like to read it into the record. With this unanimous consent request, I would emphasize that this would be ending the debate and allowing a vote on Brennan, and so part of his unanimous consent request would be the establishment of a vote on this resolution as well as setting a vote up on the confirmation of John Brennan to be CIA Director. The resolution states “resolved that it is the sense of the Senate that the use of drones to execute or to target American citizens on American soil who pose no imminent threat clearly violates the Constitutional due process – Rights of citizens.”

That’s the most important clause of that, and I think it’s important for the American people to know that apparently the other side is going to object, so it’s important to know that the majority party here in the Senate, the party of the President, is going to object to this statement being voted on. They can still vote against it if they wish, but they are going to object, I understand, to having a vote on this statement. “The use of drones to execute a target, American citizens on American soil, who pose no imminent threat clearly violates the Constitutional due process rights of citizens.”

So what we’re talking about is a resolution that says, what we have been trying to get the President to say is you can’t kill noncombatants. You can’t kill people in a cafe in Seattle. That’s what were asking. It is blatantly unconstitutional to kill noncombatants. I can’t understand why we couldn’t get a resolution, particularly because I am willing to with this resolution move forward and let the vote occur on Brennan. The second part of the resolution is the American people deserve a clear, concise and unequivocal public statement from the President of the United States that contains detailed legal reasoning, including but not limited to the balance between national security and due process, limits of Executive power and distinction between treatments of citizens and noncitizens within and outside the borders of the United States, the use of lethal force against American citizens, and the use of drones in the application of lethal force within the United States territory. So basically, the second part of the resolution asks basically that we do our job. That we do our job and ask the President to let us know what is going on with the program. So if there is an objection to this, it would be an objection to, one, killing citizens who are noncombatants, and two, to giving us a report on what the program will actually entail.

So, Mr. President, I ask unanimous consent that at the time to be determined by the two leaders tomorrow, the Senate vote on this resolution as I just read it and with the addition to it that they then turn to the Brennan nomination or are allowed to proceed to a vote.

SEN. DURBIN: Mr. President?

The Presiding Officer: Is there objection?

SEN. DURBIN: Mr. President, reserving the right to object.

The Presiding Officer: The Senator from Illinois.

SEN. DURBIN: I would say to my friend from Kentucky, I am chair of the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights Subcommittee of the Senate Judicial Committee. We are scheduling a hearing on the issue of drones because I believe the issue raises important questions, legal and Constitutional questions, and I invite my colleague to join us in that hearing if he would like to testify. I think this is something we should look at and look closely. That’s why this hearing is being scheduled. I believe at this moment it is premature to schedule a vote on this issue until we thoroughly look at the Constitutional aspects of all of the questions that you raise today which are important, and because of that, I have no alternative but to object.

The Presiding Officer: Objection is heard.

SEN. PAUL: Mr. President, I’m disappointed that the Democrats choose not to vote on this. You know, while the answer around here for a lot of things is we’ll have a hearing at some later date to be determined, the problem is that this is a nonbinding resolution. This is a resolution just stating we believe in the Constitution and hey, Mr. President, send us some information on, you know, what your plans are for how this is going to work. It doesn’t change the law. In fact, I wish we could do more than that. We have an actual law that will be introduced where we will actually try to change the law. This is a symbolic gesture. And a way to allow us to move forward, and I’m disappointed that we can’t.

This was an article that was publish in “Human Rights First” back in December of 2012. Like I said, it has an opening statement by John Brennan that I think is actually well thought out and recognizes some of the advantages and disadvantages of drone strikes. He starts out by saying – this is from Brennan, “the United States is establishing precedents that other nations may follow and not all of them will be nations that share our interests.” Think about what he is saying there. Other people are going to get drones. We have already lost a drone in Iran. How long do you think it is before Iran has drones? How long do you think it is before Hezbollah has drones or Hamas has drones?

So I think there is a certain amount of thought that ought to go into a drone-killing program, particularly when the people that are being killed by the drones will have their own drones, I think within short order. The Obama administration has dramatically escalated targeted killing by drones as a central feature of its counterterrorism response. Over the past two years, the administration has begun to speak more openly about the targeted killing program, including in public remarks by several senior officials. While we welcome and appreciate these disclosures, they nevertheless provided only limited information. Experts in other governments have continued to raise serious concerns about this. The precedent that the U.S. targeted killing policy is setting for the rest of the world, including countries that have acquired or are in the process of acquiring drones. Yet have long failed to adhere to the rule of law and protect human rights.

So we like to believe that we actually have rules in place and we wouldn’t misuse drones. Imagine what it’s going to be like, though, when countries get drones who have none of the rules, none of the checks and balances. The impact of the drone program on other U.S. Counterterrorism efforts, including whether U.S. allies and other security partners have reduced intelligence sharing and other forms of counterterrorism cooperation because of the operational and legal concerns expressed by these countries. The impact of drone operations on other aspects of U.S. counterterrorism strategy, especially diplomatic and foreign assistance efforts designed to counter extremism promotes stability and provide economic aid. The number of civilian casualties, including a lack of clarity on who the United States considers a civilian in these situations.

Of note and of consideration also is whether the legal framework for the program that has been publicly asserted so far by the administration comports with international legal requirements. The totality of these concerns heightened by the lack of public information surrounding the program require the administration to better explain the program and its legal basis and to carefully review the policy in light of the global precedent it is setting and serious questions about the effectiveness of the program on the full range of U.S. Counterterrorism efforts. While it is expected that elements of the U.S. government’s strategy for targeted killing will be classified, it is in the national interest that the government be more transparent about policy considerations governing its use as well as its legal justification. And that the program be subject to regular oversight.

Furthermore, it is in the U.S. national security interest to ensure that the rules of engagement are clear and that the program minimizes any unintended negative consequences. How the U.S. operates and publicly explains its targeted killing programs will have a far-reaching will have far-reaching consequences. The manufacture and sale of unmanned aerial vehicles is an increasing global industry and drone technology is not prohibitively complicated. I’ll give you an idea that there’s a marketplace f drones. Last year I introduced a bill to require a warrant before you can use a domestic drone to spy on citizens. And before I introduced it or anybody knew outside my office, we already had calls and lobbying coming from drone manufacturers. So this is a big business. Some 70 countries already possess drones, including Russia, Syria, and Libya, and others are in the process of acquiring them.

As White House Counterterrorism Chief John Brennan stated, “the United States is establishing precedence that other nations may follow and not all of them will be nations that share our interests or the premium we put on protecting human life, including innocent civilians.” By declaring that it is an armed conflict with al Qaeda’s associated forces, which is a term that has not been defined
— and I think this is an important point, because everybody’s always talking about, don’t worry, you’re fine, you’re not a terrorist, we’re only going out after terrorists. The problem is, is that, like I said, the government has defined terrorism in this country to mean things that may not include terrorists. Paying cash, you know, having weatherized ammunition, you know, there’s a lot of different things that they’ve used as definition. But so we say that we’re going after al Qaeda, people who work with them or associated forces.

What exactly that means, I don’t know, particularly because even al Qaeda is a little bit hard to define because they don’t have membership cards, some of them probably don’t use the label at all. I doubt many of them have any communication with any kind of central headquarters or central group called al Qaeda. But by declaring that it is an armed conflict with al Qaeda’s associated forces without articulating limits to that armed conflict, the United States is inviting other countries to similarly declare armed conflicts against groups they consider to be security threats for purposes of assuming lethal targeting authority. Moreover, by announcing that all members of such groups are legally targetable, the United States is establishing exceedingly broad precedent for those who can be targeted. Even if it is not to utilize the full scope of this claimed authority, as an alternative to armed conflict based targeting, U.S. Officials have claimed that targeted killings are justified as self-defense.

Responding to an imminent threat. The problem is, is that; you know, we defined imminent to be not immediate, so having a murky definition of what imminent is allowed us to really run into problems. It’s also not clear that the current broad targeted killing policy serves U.S. Long-term strategic interests in combating international terrorism. Although it has been reported that some high-level operational leaders of al Qaeda have been killed in drone attacks, studies show that the vast majority are not high-level terrorist leaders. National security analyst and former U.S. Military officials increasingly argue that such tactical gains are outweighed by the substantial cost of the targeted killing program, including growing anti-American sentiment and recruiting support for al Qaeda. The broad targeted killing program has already strained U.S. Relations with allies and, therefore, has impeded the flow of critical intelligence about terrorist operations.

The problem is, when we talk about this, particularly, you know, one of the most important things to our intelligence is actually human intelligence. We get information from people who are our friends, who live in those countries, blend into the population, are part of their population. But, you know, we’ve gone on and some of this we have destroyed in the sense that one of the people who helped us to get bin Laden was a doctor in Pakistan by the name of Dr. Shakil Afridi. If you don’t stand by the people who give you intelligence and give you information, you won’t get more. But when he did help us, somehow his name was leaked. I don’t know where the leak came from but his name was leaked and then he was arrested by the Pakistanis and he’s now in prison for the rest of his life.

So I’ve asked several times, both to the previous secretary of state as well as to the current Secretary of State, and I asked the current Secretary of State point blank and directly, will you use the leverage of foreign aid to say we’re not going to give you foreign aid if you don’t release this doctor who gave us information? And it’s a little bit ironic that we won’t do it, particularly since at one point in time we actually had a $25 million reward I think for any information that led to help to getting bin Laden. So it’s kind of disappointing that we haven’t really held out and supported our human intelligence and people like Dr. Afridi, who helped us get probably the most notorious terrorist of the last century.

The U.S. Government doesn’t report the number of deaths from drone strikes. Independent groups have estimated, though, that they have claimed several thousand lives so far. Estimates and public comments by some Senators have said as much as 4,700. Now, what we don’t know about the 4,700 but what would be an important statistic, I think, or maybe a troubling statistic, would be how many of the 4,700 were killed in combat, actually holding weapons, fighting, going from a battle? And how many of the drone strikes were actually on people that weren’t involve in combat?

And I think if we were if that number were released, I think if that number were made public, it would concern you even more because you may well find out that a lot of the people and we’ve seen some of the strikes on television. People in their cars, people walking around without weapons, people eating dinner, people at home in their house. Now, I’m not saying these are good people necessarily. I’m just saying that the drone strike program that we have in place currently seems to have a fairly low threshold for who they kill.

And the question would be whether or not you’re going to use that standard if you have a domestic drone strike program in the United States. And so I think really we’re getting to the point and that is one of the most important questions as we look at the foreign drone program is understanding what are the parameters that allow us to kill people in foreign countries and are those parameters going to be used here? Well, for the most part, over the last decade, they haven’t admitted we have a drone strike program but now they admit it. The President doesn’t want to answer any questions about it, doesn’t say he won’t use it here, just that he’s not intending to use it here, and then says well, probably there would be different rules inside the U.S. Than outside the U.S.

The problem is, and this is where the Senate ought to get involved instead of punting this to another time, the Senate ought to get involved and what the Senate ought to do is say, we’re not going to wait for the President to send us a memo. We’re going to send him a memo. We’re going to tell him what the rules are drone strikes are. We’re going to tell him that the Constitution does apply to Americans, particularly Americans in the United States, and that there are no exceptions. You know, I find it inexcusable that the Attorney General says, well, the Fifth Amendment, we will, you know, use it as needed, basically. We’ll use it when we choose. And the problem with that is, is that I don’t think the executive branch should get to pick and choose. Mr. President, without yielding the floor, I’m going to allow a question from my colleague from Texas.

SEN. CRUZ: I thank the Senator from Kentucky and I want to ask the following question. If the Senator from Kentucky is aware of the reaction the American people have had to his extraordinary efforts today? And given that the Senate rules do not allow for the use of cellular phones on the floor of the Senate, I feel quite confident that the Senator from Kentucky is not aware of the Twitter verse that has been exploding.

So what I wanted to do for the Senator from Kentucky is give some small sampling of the reaction on Twitter so that he might understand how the American people are responding to his courageous leadership. To Senator Paul’ doing something that the last four years has happened far too little in this chamber, which is standing up and fighting for liberty.

So I will read a series of tweets.

“So proud of Rand Paul standing up for what’s right. Stand with Rand.” “Rand Paul, a reason to be proud of your elected representatives again. Keep going, Rand.”

“Proud of Senator Rand Paul and all who have joined him in this effort. Stand today with Senator Rand Paul.”

“So happy with Rand Paul right now. Someone finally using the system to aid, not usurp our rights.”

“Rand Paul filibusters Brennan nomination. Over four hours now. Glad someone in the Senate has some spine.” That was tweeted awhile ago.

“Rand Paul is my hero today, a man with backbone.”

“Today Rand Paul is my hero.”

“Kentucky Senator Rand Paul is a true Constitutional hero in his filibuster against CIA No, nominee.”

“I can honestly say I am proud to currently live in Rand Paul’s state of Kentucky.”

“So proud of Rand Paul, he’s bringing it. He’s not going to let our Constitution get trashed. A breath of fresh air.”

“Pray for this fight for Rand.”

“I’m so beyond proud of Rand Paul and the way he is standing up for each and every American citizen right now by filibustering the Senate.”

“I am very proud of Senator Rand Paul. This is an important moment when one person had the courage to yell ‘stop.’ stand with Rand.”

“So proud of Rand Paul. We need more like him. Stand with Rand.”

“Rand Paul is now in hour seven of his filibuster. He is standing up for our rights thank you. Stand with Rand.”

“It’s frightening that Obama seeks to have an ever-growing amount of power. Drone strikes are frightening. Stand with Rand.”

“Dear GOP: The base is crying out for more of you to stand with Rand. If you want the base, get it together.”

“Stand with Rand. We need you now more than ever. This president has usurped power. We can’t say anything bad against him.”

“Stand with Rand. So long as Rand speaks, we’ll be tuned in.”

“It is unconstitutional to target and kill Americans on American soil with a drone. Stand with Rand.”

A retweet from Senator Rand Paul “I will commend the Senator from Kentucky for being so flexible that he was able to tweet while standing on the floor of the Senate” and a retweet from Senator Rand Paul’s tweet, “I will not sit quietly and let president Obama shred the Constitution, with the hashtags, “filiblizzard” and “stand with Rand.”

Here is a more mixed one but nonetheless demonstrating the respect the Senator from Kentucky is earning across the aisle. “I may not always agree with Rand Paul, but he has my respect. He’s very willing to do what he feels is right.”

“Stand with Rand because we deserve to know if American citizens should fear murder from our government. Everyone should be aware of this important moment in American history. Stand with Rand.”

“Proud to call Rand Paul my Senator. Stand with Rand.”

“It is unconstitutional to target and kill Americans on American soil with a drone. Stand with Rand.”

“The federal government does not have the power to kill its citizens whenever it wants. There is something called due process. Stand with Rand.”

“Fight for our Constitutional rights and liberties. Stand with Rand.”

“Stand with Rand. I have gained a lot of respect for Senator Paul today. This is not a right or left issue. It is a civil liberties issue.”

“Thank you, Rand Paul, and others who are taking a stand for patriotic Americans. A great day for liberty when Senator Rand Paul and a handful of others stood up for liberty. Stand with Rand.”

“And it is ironic that a Nobel peace prize winner won’t guarantee that he won’t use drones against Americans. Stand with Rand.”

Now, I will note to the Senator from Kentucky and ask his reaction to these. This is but a small sampling of the reaction in Twitter, indeed in my office. I think the technical term for what the Twitter verse is doing right now is called blowing up.

And I would suggest to the Senator from Kentucky and then ask his reaction, I would suggest that this is a reflection of the fact that the American people are frustrated. They are frustrated that they feel too few elected officials in Washington stand for our rights, are willing to rock the boat, are willing to stand up and say the Constitution matters and it matters whether it’s popular or not. It matters whether my party’s in power or another party is in power.

The Constitution matters, our rights matter, and so many Americans I think are frustrated that they view elected officials as looking desperate to stay in power, desperate to be re-elected, desperate to do everything except fight for the Constitution and fight for our liberties, and I think this outpouring that the Senator from Kentucky is seeing is a reflection of that great frustration, and I join with the sentiments of these and many others on Twitter. And so I ask the Senator from Kentucky if he was aware of this reaction and what his thoughts are to the many thousands more who I haven’t been able to read their tweets and their words of encouragement as the Senator from Kentucky, more than anyone is standing with Rand.


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