by HAVIV RETTIG GUR
Times of Israel
‘In a show of force, the United States Senate on Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution urging an uncompromising US stance against Iranian efforts to acquire nuclear weapons, calling for Washington’s support should Israel strike the program.
“If the Government of Israel is compelled to take military action in legitimate self-defense against Iran’s nuclear weapons program, the United States Government should stand with Israel and provide, in accordance with United States law and the constitutional responsibility of Congress to authorize the use of military force, diplomatic, military, and economic support to the Government of Israel in its defense of its territory, people, and existence,” the resolution reads.
It also calls for the US to take “such action as may be necessary” to keep Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapons capability.
While senators are careful in their calls for US military intervention, the resolution, which passed 99-0, is seen as the most direct expression yet heard from Washington reflecting support for a potential Israeli strike.’
A spokesperson for Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) tonight issued an apology for the poor timing of the senator’s speech yesterday in which he blamed climate change for the massive tornado that was at that moment devastating the town of Moore, Olka. — a tragedy “unbeknownst to the senator at the time.” The touching and heartfelt heading: “Statement on Tragedy in Oklahoma.”
Yesterday afternoon Senator Whitehouse took to the Senate floor to deliver his weekly speech about climate change. It was a speech that had been prepared in advance, and which included a general reference to tornadoes in Oklahoma. Tragically, and unbeknownst to the Senator at the time, a series of tornadoes were hitting Oklahoma at the same moment he gave his remarks. Senator Whitehouse regrets the timing of his speech and offers his thoughts and prayers to the victims of yesterday’s storms and their families, and he stands ready to work with the Senators from Oklahoma to assist them and their constituents in this time of need.
‘Congressional investigators are asking the old Watergate question – what did the president know and when did he know it – about the Internal Revenue Service’s improper targeting of conservative groups for special scrutiny when they sought tax-exempt status.
But the startling revelation of the past 24 hours is the opposite concern – what the president didn’t know and how long he didn’t know it. And therein lies a big problem for the White House.
It turns out that senior White House officials intentionally kept the president in the dark, even though the IRS misconduct was sure to be a major controversy that could seriously damage his administration and undermine trust in government.
Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday that a number of key advisers knew that the IRS was investigating the potential misconduct, including White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough, who was informed a month ago, and White House legal counsel Kathryn Ruemmler, who learned of it April 24.
But Carney defended keeping the president ignorant of the potential scandal. “It is entirely appropriate that the president not be notified,” of such an ongoing investigation, he said.
Obama has insisted that he learned of the potential scandal from the news media last week.’
by Lucy Madison
‘As negotiations continue in the Senate over the language for a comprehensive immigration bill, the Senate Judiciary Committee moved forward Tuesday with a measure prompted by concerns inspired by last month’s Boston bombings.
The amendment, which passed out of committee unanimously on Tuesday, makes monitoring requirements on foreign students more stringent, requiring the Department of Homeland Security to implement the “real-time transmission of” student visa information to databases used by U.S. Customs and Border Protection across the country.
According to a Judiciary Committee spokeswoman, the legislation, proposed by the committee’s top Republican, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, was prompted by the fact that Azamat Tazhayakov, one of the students charged as an accomplice in the bombings, had a nullified visa. Tazhayakov had not registered for school when he returned from Kazhakstan, and his visa was consequently pulled. The border agent who allowed him to re-enter the country, however, did not have that information in his computer.’
by John Parkinson
‘The House of Representatives voted today to repeal the entire Affordable Care Act, 229-195. This was the third vote for full repeal, and the 37th overall vote the House has taken to disrupt, dismantle, defund or repeal parts of the Affordable Care Act.
Rep. Michele Bachmann (R.-Minn.) called the vote shortly before 6:30 p.m.
Two Blue Dog Democrats, Reps. Mike McIntyre (D-N.C.) and Jim Matheson (D-Utah), voted along with 227 House Republicans in support of the bill.
No Republicans opposed repeal, although five GOPers missed the vote.
In a statement following the vote, House Speaker John Boehner said the vote was “all about jobs.”
‘The so-called Monsanto Protection Act signed into law earlier this year caused such an outrage that people around the world are planning to protest the biotech company later this month. Now a United States senator is expected to try and repeal that law.
According to the Huffington Post, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Oregon) plans to introduce an amendment in Washington that would repeal Section 735 from the Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013, a provision that has put St. Louis, Missouri-based Monsanto in the sights of environmentalists around the world.
Deep within the nearly 600-page spending bill, Section 735 includes language that lets biotech companies that experiment with genetically-engineered and genetically-modified crops test and sell lab-made products even if legal action is taken against them.’
Spying on Members of the US Congress: DoJ Tapped Congressional Rooms as Well as Reporters’ Offices ~ Washington’s Blog
Has the Obama Department of Justice Violated the Separation of Powers?
California Congressman Devin Nunes (R-CA) says that the Department Of Justice tapped phones in the rooms where Congress members speak informally and off the record, eat, sleep and socialize when they’re not on the floor of the House of Representatives or in their individual offices.These rooms are known as “cloak rooms”, which are the spaces in which a lot of informal conversations occur… both between Congress members, and Congress members and reporters.
Congressman Nunes told Hugh Hewitt:
[Congressman Nunes]: I don’t think people are focusing on the right thing when they talk about going after the AP reporters. The big problem that I see is that they actually tapped right where I’m sitting right now, the Cloak Room.
[Interviewer]: Wait a minute, this is news to me.
Congressman Nunes: The Cloak Room in the House of Representatives.
[Interviewer]: I have no idea what you’re talking about.
Congressman Nunes: So when they went after the AP reporters, right? Went after all of their phone records, they went after the phone records, including right up here in the House Gallery, right up from where I’m sitting right now. So you have a real separation of powers issue that did this really rise to the level that you would have to get phone records that would, that would most likely include members of Congress ….
Now that is a separation of powers issue here ….
Liberals rightfully lambasted the Bush administration for considering doing something similar. As Mother Jones reported in 2009:
James Risen and Eric Lichtblau report in the New York Times today that the NSA may have exceeded the wiretapping authority it was given by Congress in 2008.
But then there’s this buried in the middle of the story, which isn’t vague at all:
New details are also emerging about earlier domestic surveillance activities, including the agency’s attempt to wiretap a congressman without court approval on an overseas trip, according to interviews with current and former intelligence officials.
….The agency believed that the congressman, whose identity could not be determined, was in contact as part of a congressional delegation to the Middle East in 2005 or 2006 with an extremist who had possible terrorist ties and was already under surveillance, the official said. The agency then sought to eavesdrop on the congressman’s conversations to gather more intelligence, the official said.
The official said the plan was ultimately blocked because of concerns from some officials in the intelligence community about the idea of using the N.S.A., without court oversight, to spy on a member of Congress.
Jesus. If a member of Congress isn’t a “United States person” protected from warrantless surveillance by every version of FISA that’s ever been on the books, who is? Shouldn’t this have set off alarm bells at every possible level at NSA, rather than merely being “ultimately blocked” because “some” officials had “concerns” about it?
But – even though top expert say that Obama is trampling on separation of powers and Constitutional liberties more than Bush or Nixon – many Democrats are still hypnotized by what liberal writer Glenn Greenwald calls the “cult of personality“.
Update: Nunes’ director of communications – Jack Lagner – has issued a clarification:
What Rep. Nunes meant by “tapped” was that the DOJ seized the phone records, as has been widely reported. There was a little confusion between him and the host during the conversation: He did not mean to refer to phone records of the cloakroom itself, but of the Capitol. This refers to the phone records for the AP from the House press gallery, which the DOJ admitted to looking at. He was explaining that if those phone records were seized, they would reveal a lot of conversations between the press and members of Congress, since reporters often speak to Members from the press gallery phones. The notion of the DOJ looking at phone records from the Capitol of conversations between Members of Congress and reporters is something that concerns Rep. Nunes, bringing up issues related to the separation of powers.
Nunes’ point still stands, though. The Department of Justice collection of phone records of conversations between Congress members and reporters violates the principal of separation of powers.
by John Hudson
‘Sens. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Bob Corker (R-TN) introduced a bill Wednesday to arm the Syrian rebels, the latest piece of legislation aimed at pressuring the Obama administration to intervene more aggressively in the protracted civil war. The bill provides lethal weapons to vetted members of the Syrian opposition and beefs up sanctions on weapons sales and petroleum sales to President Bashar al-Assad‘s regime.
In short, it has all the hallmarks of the bill Menendez introduced last week, but with a bipartisan sheen. As Andrew Tabler, a senior fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, described the Menendez bill last week, “If you want to pressure the president into acting, it’s a pretty good bill …The last time the Hill moved on Syria was sanctions on Syrian oil in the summer of 2011. That pressured the president to move, and this could too.” Its new bipartisan gloss could give it that much more power.
The legislation is set to be taken up by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with a markup session scheduled for Tuesday, May 21.’
by Phillip Swarts
The Washington Guardian
‘The U.S. spends more money on defense than any other nation in the world. So in an era of fiscal challenge, the Pentagon looked for ways to reduce costs.
Too bad Congress wasn’t listening.
Lawmakers have nixed several of the money-saving ideas, instead forcing the Defense Department to purchase or maintain equipment it says it doesn’t need.’
by Jake Tapper
‘CNN has obtained an e-mail sent by a top aide to President Barack Obama about White House reaction to the deadly attack last September 11 on the U.S. diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, that apparently differs from how sources characterized it to two different media organizations.
The actual e-mail from then-Deputy National Security Adviser for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes appears to show that whomever leaked it did so in a way that made it appear that the White House was primarily concerned with the State Department’s desire to remove references and warnings about specific terrorist groups so as to not bring criticism to the department.’
by Eric W. Dolan
‘Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Monday called for the non-existent commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service to resign over the agency’s targeting of tea party groups.
[...] Several publications were quick to point out that the IRS Commissioner in question, Douglas Shulman, ended his five-year term in November 2012. IRS Deputy Commissioner Steven Miller has acted as the head of the agency pending President Barack Obama’s nomination of a successor.’
by Alex Kane
‘A new poll from Public Policy Polling reveals that the 39% of Americans who think that “Benghazi is the biggest political scandal in American history” don’t actually know where it is. (it’s in Libya).
Some thought it was in Egypt; others thought it was in Iran; and a handful didn’t even guess.
The poll also reveals that most voters trust former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the Benghazi issue over Republicans. The majority of voters polled also want Congress to be focused on gun control and immigration rather than the Benghazi attack. Most Republicans, though, think Benghazi is a huge issue, and 74% think the so-called scandal is worse than Watergate.’
‘Lobbyists, major corporations, banks, and the federal government all have too much power, according to Americans. By contrast, the public largely believes state and local governments, the legal system, organized religion, and the military each have the right amount of power or too little power.’ ~ Americans Decry Power of Lobbyists, Corporations, Banks, Feds (Gallup)
‘Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates forcefully defended the Obama administration on Sunday against charges that it did not do enough to prevent the tragedy in Benghazi, telling CBS’ “Face the Nation” that some critics of the administration have a “cartoonish impression of military capabilities and military forces.”
Gates, a Republican who was appointed by then-President George W. Bush in 2006 and agreed to stay through more than two years of President Obama’s first term, repeatedly declined to criticize the policymakers who devised a response to the September 2012 attack on a U.S. diplomatic facility in Benghazi, Libya, that left four Americans dead, including the U.S. Ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens.
“Frankly, had I been in the job at the time, I think my decisions would have been just as theirs were,” said Gates, now the chancellor of the College of William and Mary.’
by Anthony Gucciardi
‘In a legislative blow against GMO giant Monsanto and major food corporations who wish to keep you in the dark over what you’re eating on a daily basis, the Vermont House has passed a significant new GMO labeling bill known as H. 112 by a count of 99-42.
[...] despite the mass lobbying and mountains of cash that go into squashing labeling, around 90 plus percent (or more on average depending on the polling institute) of the public is in favor of GMO labeling — and an increasingly large number of this percentage are turning into hardcore activists who are sick of Monsanto’s food monopoly.’
Crooks & Liars
‘Gregory Hicks has been characterized as a whistleblower and a hero by the right wing for bravely stepping forward and telling “the truth” about September 11, 2012 and the Benghazi attacks. To listen to him, you wonder how he managed to survive it all, but somehow he did only to claim he was demoted in retribution for speaking out.
Not so much, it seems. Other embassy personnel in Libya at the time spoke to ThinkProgress Friday, and their story is quite different from Hicks”
‘When Rand Paul touches down in Iowa Friday, it will be almost exactly three years to the day after his landslide 2010 Senate primary victory – an unlikely and decisive triumph over the Republican establishment that instantly transformed Paul into a national political phenomenon.
Now, as Paul weighs a 2016 presidential bid, a different kind of challenge confronts him: Can the plain-spoken former Bowling Green ophthalmologist build a campaign to back up his popular appeal?
For all Paul’s success as a media brand and a mobilizer of the conservative grassroots, the Kentucky senator has done relatively little since 2010 to assemble a political machine around his own personality. For now, the Rand Paul project is a high-wire act that works largely without a net.
Paul’s political action committee, RAND PAC, has only just now hired a spokesman, sources said: former Michele Bachmann aide Sergio Gor. While Paul has reached out to key figures in the GOP donor community, much of his fundraising still happens over the Internet – though he’ll court Silicon Valley moguls at multiple meet-and-greet events later this month in California, according to a top aide.’
by ALEX BYERS
‘[...] Four Republican congressmen introduced a pair of bills this week that would require government investigators to score a warrant before obtaining someone’s email content. Arizona Reps. Matt Salmon and Trent Franks are partnering on a House version of ECPA reform; Kansas Rep. Kevin Yoder and Georgia Rep. Tom Graves are teaming up on the Email Privacy Act.
Both bills are companion measures to legislation from Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah) that cleared the Senate Judiciary Committee last month. Leahy has long been pushing to update the rules. This week’s Republican bills were an exclamation point after Lee officially signed on to Leahy’s push and Republican Rep. Ted Poe of Texas joined an ECPA reform measure by California Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren.
The growing support among lawmakers is easy to understand: The public doesn’t want it to be any easier for law enforcement to snoop through their emails. It’s fundamentally a Fourth Amendment issue, which guards against unreasonable searches and seizures — allowing Republicans to operate from their perch as constitutional defenders.’
Senator Elizabeth Warren Introduces Bill That Allows Student Loans At Same Rate Banks Can Borrow At ~ MSNBC
by Dan Roberts
‘While US diplomats were pulling bodies from a burning Libyan consulate and frantically smashing up hard drives last 11 September, their superiors blocked rescue efforts and later attempted to cover up security failings, according to damaging new evidence that may yet hurt Hillary Clinton‘s presidential hopes.
In vivid testimony to Congress on Wednesday, Gregory Hicks, deputy to murdered US ambassador Christopher Stevens, revealed for the first time in public a detailed account of the desperate few hours after the terrorist attacks on the US consulate in Benghazi.
He also said that Stevens went to Benghazi to beat a 30 September deadline to convert the mission to a permanent posting. There was additional time pressure because Clinton planned to visit Libya later in the year and to announce the opening of the post, Hicks said.
But Hicks and two other state department witnesses also singled out the government response for criticism. Until now that criticism had been largely dismissed as a partisan effort by Republican congressman to smear former Clinton, who was secretary of state at the time.’
by Patricia Zengerle
‘A few dozen words rushed into law days after the September 11, 2001, attacks have been used to justify U.S. counterterrorism efforts from the war in Afghanistan to warrantless wiretapping and drone strikes, all on orders of the White House – and with little congressional oversight.
Now, as criticism grows that the law has been stretched well beyond its original intent to go after militant groups that did not even exist on 9/11, some Democrats and Republicans have begun writing legislation to update the nearly 12-year-old resolution.
That could restoke tensions between Congress and the White House over executive power, which were on display when Republican Senator Rand Paul staged a 13-hour filibuster in March to protest President Barack Obama’s use of unmanned aircraft to conduct targeted killings.’
by Rick Klein, Olivier Knox, Richard Coolidge, and Jordyn Phelps
‘Even as most Americans wonder what planet politicians are from, is it possible that the government is squelching evidence of extraterrestrials visiting Earth? One former presidential hopeful says yes – and that the conspiracy goes all the way to the top.
Former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-Alaska) says the White House has helped keep the truth about the “extraterrestrial influence that is investigating our planet” from the public.
“It goes right to the White House, and of course, once the White House takes a position, ‘well there’s nothing going on’…it just goes down the chain of command, everyone stands toe,” Gravel tells Top Line.’
by Jessica Chasmar
The Washington Times
‘The South Carolina state House passed a bill Wednesday that declares President Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act to be “null and void,” and criminalizes its implementation.
The state’s Freedom of Health Care Protection Act intends to “prohibit certain individuals from enforcing or attempting to enforce such unconstitutional laws; and to establish criminal penalties and civil liability for violating this article.”
The measure permits the state Attorney General, with reasonable cause, “to restrain by temporary restraining order, temporary injunction, or permanent injunction” any person who is believed to be causing harm to any person or business with the implementation of Obamacare.’
by Tim Gaynor
‘Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoed a measure on Thursday that would have made gold and silver legal tender in the state, saying the legislation could have resulted in lost tax revenue.
The Republican-controlled state legislature voted through the measure last month in a response to what backers said was a lack of confidence in the international monetary system.
The bill called for Arizona to make gold and silver coins and bullion legal tender beginning in mid-2014, joining existing U.S. currency issued by the federal government.’
by Tony Cartalucci
Land Destroyer Report
‘The National Democratic Institute (NDI) is one of many tentacles descending from the US State Department and its National Endowment for Democracy (NED) front. Despite NED and NDI’s lofty mission statements about “promoting democracy worldwide,” the interests they represent are clearly those of the Fortune 500, including big-oil, retail, media, banking, and defense. This convergence of corporate-financier interests pervade the US government from the top, via corporate-funded policy think tanks that direct US policy at home and abroad, and out the bottom through corporate-chaired and funded NGOs that oversee the execution of this policy.
[...] However, now, these interests are trying a new trick – co-opting the planet’s tech community, both to augment its current activities, and to blunt the devastating blow the tech community has so far dealt big-business special interests.
NED’s NDI has spun off NDItech DemocracyWorks which seeks to leverage emerging technology to manipulate and undermine targeted nations, just as NED has done through NGOs for years.’
‘Major changes could be coming to American food labeling rules if a new federal bill mandating that genetically modified ingredients be disclosed is signed into law.
The new bill, known as the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, was introduced on Wednesday by Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-OR), and resembles previous legislation that failed to garner sufficient support in Congress.
However, the bill can already count on nine bipartisan Senate co-sponsors, along with 22 cosponsors in the House. That wide base of support may give the new legislation a better shot – not to mention the fact that over 90 per cent of Americans already support compulsory labeling of genetically modified foods.
According to an initial draft, the right-to-know bill is similar to existing regulations in sixty-four other countries, including EU members, China, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Brazil and India.’