Category Archives: Congress

Congressional Hawks Vow to Block Normalization of Cuba Ties

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘President Obama’s announcement of his intentions to end 53 years of acrimony toward Cuba, and move toward normalization of relations, including reopening the Embassy in Havana, came as a shock to many.

Polls show that the American public has been supportive of the idea for awhile now, however, and that anti-Cuba sentiment is something a lot of people got over literally decades ago.

Being the obvious thing to do, and a popular thing to do, doesn’t mean it’s going to get done, however, and Congressional hawks are promising to stop normalization, as well as to block any nomination of an ambassador to Cuba.’

READ MORE…

Republican Congressman Peter King: Sydney calls for “heavy surveillance”

Ben Kamisar reports for The Hill:

‘Rep. Pete King (R-N.Y.) says the deadly hostage situation in Sydney underscores the need for increased government surveillance, applauding former programs that spied on Muslim communities.

“It shows to me the need for increased surveillance, heavy surveillance, and to get as many sources as we can into these communities where these type of lunatics may come from,” King said on Fox News’ “America’s Newsroom.”

“And not just lunatics — people who are on the edge and who have these Islamist leanings,” the lawmaker added.

King went on to bash the American Civil Liberties Union and The New York Times for what he referred to as “attacking the police.”’

READ MORE…

Dodd-Frank Budget Fight Proves Democrats Are a Bunch of Stuffed Suits

Matt Taibbi writes for Rolling Stone:

‘[…] Conservatives for welfare, and liberals for big business. It doesn’t make sense unless we’re not really dealing with any divided collection of conservatives or liberals, and are instead talking about one nebulous mass of influence, money and interests. I think of it as a single furiously-money-collecting/favor-churning oligarchical Beltway party, a thing that former Senate staffer and author Jeff Connaughton calls “The Blob.”

What’s happening here is that The Blob, which includes supposed enemies like Reid and Graham, wants to give donation-factory banks like Citi and Chase a handout. But a coalition of heretics, including the liberal Warren, the genuinely conservative Vitter and (surprisingly to me) the usually party-orthodox Nancy Pelosi is saying no to the naked giveaway.

Is killing the Citigroup provision really worth the trouble? Is it a “Hill to die on”? Maybe not in itself. But the key here is that a victory on the swaps issue will provide the Beltway hacks with a playbook for killing the rest of the few meaningful things in Dodd-Frank, probably beginning with the similar Volcker Rule, designed to prevent other types of gambling by federally-insured banks. Once they cave on the swaps issue, it won’t be long before the whole bill vanishes, and we can go all the way back to our pre-2008 regulatory Nirvana.’

READ MORE…

What the Torture Report Isn’t Telling You

‘Why is the corporate media turning torture into a debate? Abby Martin discusses the media’s reaction to the Senate torture report and why torture has suddenly turned into a partisan debate.’ (Breaking the Set)

Proposed Senate Bill Would Make Future CIA Torture Prosecutable

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘Speaking on NBC’s Meet the Press today [Sunday 14th December], Sen. Ron Wyden (D – OR) a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, has promised to introduce a new bill next year which would make any future incidents of CIA torture prosecutable.

Sen. Wyden expressed concern that in CIA Director John Brennan’s Thursday defense of past torture, he left open the possibility that the CIA would do so again in the future.’

READ MORE…

U.S. Congress Secretly Legitimizes Questionable NSA Mass Surveillance Tool

Mike Masnick reports for Techdirt:

‘[…] For a while now, we’ve discussed executive order 12333, signed by President Ronald Reagan, which more or less gives the NSA unchecked authority to tap into any computer system not in the US. Over the summer, a former State Department official, John Napier Tye, basically blew the whistle on 12333 by noting that everyone focused on other NSA programs were missing the point. The NSA’s surveillance is almost entirely done under this authority, which has no Congressional oversight. All those other programs we’ve been arguing about — Section 215 of the Patriot Act or Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act — are really nothing more than ways to backfill the data the NSA has been unable to access under 12333. In other words, these other programs are the distraction. 12333 is the ballgame, and it has no Congressional oversight at all. It’s just a Presidential executive order.

Yet, what Amash and his staffers found is that a last minute change by the Senate Intelligence Committee to the bill effectively incorporated key parts of EO 12333 into law, allowing for “the acquisition, retention, and dissemination” of “nonpublic communications.” Here’s where those who slipped this bit into the law got sneaky. Recognizing that they might be called on it, they put it in with language noting that such information could only be held on to for five years — and then claimed what they were really doing was putting a limit on data already collected.’

READ MORE…

Reuters Report Exposes Absurd Level of Cronyism In U.S. Supreme Court

CIA Agents Blast Report, Defend Torture

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘It’s already glaringly obvious that the Senate isn’t going to follow up the CIA torture report with any actual reform, or even a token attempt to hold any of the torturers accountable. Still, CIA officials are outraged.

Nobody likes to be called a torturer, even if they tortured people and even if they’re going to get away with it. CIA Director John Brennan and others were furious about the release of the heavily redacted summary of the report.’

READ MORE…

Why the Senate Torture Report Doesn’t Matter: Interview with David Remes

Cold War II Begins? U.S. House Passes Resolution 758 in a Rare Show of Bipartisanship

Esther Tanquintic-Misa reports for the International Business Times:

‘The United States has effectively pushed the button of the 21st century Cold War era. On Thursday, its House of Representatives passed Resolution 758, a decree telling the U.S., Europe and its’ allies to “aggressively keep the pressure” on Russia and its President Vladimir Putin until such measures “change his behaviour.”

On Wednesday, U.S. President Barack Obama claimed Mr Putin is “isolating Russia completely internationally” and knows the Russian leader is not going to “suddenly change his mind-set … which is part of the reason why we’re going to continue to maintain that pressure.” As U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry urged Russia not to isolate itself during a meeting of the 57 members of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe in the northern Swiss city of Basel, Resolution 758 had called for the reinforcement of NATO and the sale of U.S. natural gas to Europe, alluding away from Russian energy exports.

The resolution has likewise effectively given the government of Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko the go signal to launch military actions against the “separatists” in Eastern Ukraine. Resolution 758 has called on the U.S. President to “provide the Government of Ukraine with defense articles, services and training required to effectively defend its territory and sovereignty.”‘

READ MORE…

Why Google May Be More ‘Evil’ than the NSA: Interview with Taylor Lincoln of Public Citizen

Abby Martin speaks with Taylor Lincoln, Director of Research at Public Citizen’s Congressional Watch Division about a new report detailing how Google is invading users privacies and becoming the most powerful and influential political force in Washington.’ (Breaking the Set)

Falling apart: America’s neglected infrastructure

Steve Kroft reports for CBS 60 Minutes:

chopper-shot-of-falling-debris-cover.jpg‘There are a lot of people in the United States right now who think the country is falling apart, and at least in one respect they’re correct. Our roads and bridges are crumbling, our airports are out of date and the vast majority of our seaports are in danger of becoming obsolete. All the result of decades of neglect. None of this is really in dispute. Business leaders, labor unions, governors, mayors, congressmen and presidents have complained about a lack of funding for years, but aside from a one time cash infusion from the stimulus program, nothing much has changed. There is still no consensus on how to solve the problem or where to get the massive amounts of money needed to fix it, just another example of political paralysis in Washington.

Tens of millions of American cross over bridges every day without giving it much thought, unless they hit a pothole. But the infrastructure problem goes much deeper than pavement. It goes to crumbling concrete and corroded steel and the fact that nearly 70,000 bridges in America — one out of every nine — is now considered to be structurally deficient.’

READ MORE & WATCH THE FULL SEGMENT…

Utah Considers Cutting Off Water to the NSA’s Monster Data Center

Robert McMillan reports for Wired:

An aerial view of the cooling units at the NSA's Utah Data Center in Bluffdale, Utah. Lawmakers are considering a bill that would shut off the water spigot to the massive data center operated by the National Security Agency in Bluffdale, Utah.

The legislation, proposed by Utah lawmaker Marc Roberts, is due to go to the floor of the Utah House of Representatives early next year, but it was debated in a Public Utilities and Technology Interim Committee meeting on Wednesday. The bill, H.B. 161, directs municipalities like Bluffdale to “refuse support to any federal agency which collects electronic data within this state.”

The NSA brought its Bluffdale data center online about a year ago, taking advantage Utah’s cheap power and a cut-rate deal for millions of gallons of local water, used to cool the 1-million-square-foot building’s servers. Roberts’ bill, however, would prohibit the NSA from negotiating new water deals when its current Bluffdale agreement runs out in 2021.’

READ MORE…

House Panel Rejects Benghazi Conspiracies

John Johnson reports for Newser:

The House Intelligence Committee spent two years investigating conspiracy theories about the 2012 Benghazi attack and has concluded they’re mostly just hot air. Here’s the takeaway paragraph from the AP:

  • The investigation “determined that there was no intelligence failure, no delay in sending a CIA rescue team, no missed opportunity for a military rescue, and no evidence the CIA was covertly shipping arms from Libya to Syria.”

Yes, then UN ambassador Susan Rice wrongly stated that the attacks were the result of a protest against an inflammatory video, but the panel found that Rice had been given bad intelligence and that neither she nor anyone else in the White House deliberately tried to mislead the public.

The report further finds no evidence that CIA officers were ordered to “stand down” during the attack or were intimidated afterward to avoid testifying, reports CNN. “We concluded that all the CIA officers in Benghazi were heroes,” says Republican panel chairman Mike Rogers and ranking Democrat CA Dutch Ruppersberger. The panel does, however, fault the State Department for having weak security at the US consulate, and Politico expects that criticism to resonate. This is not the end of the Benghazi inquiries: A House select committee appointed in May is still conducting its own investigation.’

SOURCE

Senator Who Put Pentagon Papers Into Public Record Urges Udall To Do Same With Torture Report

Dan Froomkin writes for The Intercept:

Article 1, Section 6 of the Constitution establishes an absolute free-speech right for members of Congress on the floor or in committee, even if they are disclosing classified material. It states that “for any Speech or Debate in either House, they shall not be questioned in any other Place.”

Within hours of Colorado Senator Mark Udall losing his reelection bid last week, transparency activists were talking about how he should go out with a bang and put the Senate intelligence committee’s torture report into the congressional record.  The report is said to detail shockingly brutal abuse of detainees by the CIA during the George W. Bush administration, as well as rampant deception about the program by top officials. But the Obama White House is refusing to declassify even a summary of the report without major redactions. And Republicans take over the Senate in January.

Udall is one of two senators — along with fellow Intelligence Committee member Ron Wyden — who have consistently demanded greater transparency from the intelligence community. If he made the report public on the Senate floor or during a hearing, he couldn’t be prosecuted.’

READ MORE…

Coming together to dismantle the corporate state: Interview with Ralph Nader

Mark Twain on Elections

Democrats Viciously Blame Obama As Era Of Compromise Begins

Senator Bernie Sanders: The United States is on the Verge of Becoming an Oligarchy

US Elections: Theater with Deadly Consequences

Editor’s Note: Lawrence Wilkerson is a retired United States Army Colonel and former chief of staff to U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell, he joined Paul Jay to discuss how the media helps create “a charade of democracy” and makes a ton of money in the process.

Hawks Triumph in Senate; Will Push More Aggressive US Policy

Jason Ditz writes for Antiwar:

‘The Republicans took control of the Senate in Tuesday’s elections, but much more important than which party took control is the nature of the incoming Senators from the new ruling party.

It’s not an influx of Tea Party members, reluctant to waste US funds on overseas adventures and suspicious of federal power, but rather a series of hawks in the model of Sen. Lindsey Graham (R – SC) that seized the reins of power last night.

The new senators are typified by Jodi Ernst (R – IA) and Tom Cotton (R – AR), who campaigned heavy on escalating the ISIS war in Iraq and Syria, as well as being more hawkish at essentially every opportunity.”

READ MORE…

You know who else won the 2014 election? The CIA

Ryan Cooper writes for The Week:

Good luck getting answers now.The Republican Party, as you may have heard, has taken control of the Senate, after fumbling chances to do so in 2010 and 2012. With President Obama’s veto power safe for another two years, this means little for any positive Republican agenda, which barely exists in any case. But it does have enormous repercussions for one crucial area: civil liberties.

The defeat of Colorado’s Mark Udall, in particular, is a disaster. He is possibly the most prominent and committed civil libertarian in Congress, which means President Obama will no longer have to deal with a high-profile opponent of due process–free assassination of American citizens. The NSA can say goodbye to an enemy of dragnet surveillance, while the CIA no longer has to worry about Udall pushing for the release of a long-awaited report on the torture the agency inflicted on terrorism suspects during the Bush years.’

READ MORE…

US Midterm Elections: Is This Democracy?

US elections a one-party monopoly: Interview with Ron Paul and John Bonifaz

Election Day Loser: the ‘American Voters’

Editor’s Note: Greg Palast has been covering issues related to voter suppression since in the stolen election in 2000 between Bush and Gore. You can read some of his reports here.

Lauren McCauley writes for Common Dreams:

Over 40,000 Georgia voters were either not added to voter list or not given any polling place information ahead of vote. (Photo: Stephen Velasco/cc/flickr)‘As Americans rushed to the polls on Tuesday, voting rights watchdogs reported that this election day marked the most “unfair, confusing, and discriminatory election landscape” in fifty years.

Voters nationwide reported a slew of problems, including: long lines; broken machines; voter intimidation and misinformation; a lack of foreign language assistance; missing and misspelled names from registration; and general misinformation over registration, polling place locations, and identifications required.

“Every election day should be a celebration of democracy but instead what we are hearing today from too many polling places around the country is that voters are having problems casting their ballots,” said Barbara Arnwine, President and Executive Director of the national Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, in a Tuesday afternoon press call. The Lawyers’ Committee along with the Election Protection Coalition hosted a national hotline for individuals experiencing voting day difficulties.

Voting rights advocates say that these complaints come as no surprise following the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Shelby County vs. Holder to abolish key voter protections from the Voting Rights Act.’

READ MORE…

Facebook’s “I Voted” sticker was a secret experiment on its users

Dara Lind writes for Vox:

Facebook I voted button‘You might think it’s just a decorative gimmick — a cute electronic version of the “I Voted” sticker you get upon exiting the polling station. And Facebook says it’s just doing its civic duty by encouraging its users to vote.

But there’s a lot more to it than that, as Mother Jones reported last Friday. For the last few elections, Facebook has been running a series of quiet, but massive, experiments on you to see if it can make you more likely to vote. And it looks like their encouragements are working.’

READ MORE…

GOP Threatens a Senate Takeover: Interview with John Nichols and Lee Fang

‘While each House seat is up for grabs in today’s midterms, only a few dozen races are competitive enough to be in play. It is control of the Senate that hangs in the balance, coming down to around 10 key races. Republicans need to gain six seats to recapture Senate control, with a slight edge over Democrats in the advance polls. A few races are so close that they could go to a runoff. That potentially means we end Tuesday night with the Senate still undecided. Senate control is crucial, with Republicans vowing an agenda that includes more cuts to public spending, and repealing environmental regulations, such as the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s limits on emissions from coal-fired power plants and control of committees addressing global warming. But no matter how the Senate goes, we can expect mixed results at the state level as incumbent governors from both main parties face a voter backlash. The midterms will also see votes on 147 ballot measures, covering a number of key issues. Four states will vote on raising the minimum wage — Alaska, Arkansas, Nebraska and South Dakota. Polls show the measures will likely pass despite them all coming in Republican states. We get a roundup of the key issues from John Nichols, political writer for The Nation magazine.’ (Democracy Now!)

GOP Purge Threatens Millions of Voters: Interview with Greg Palast

Does Fear Sell? A Look At Midterm Candidates’ Scare Tactics

The Buying of Democracy: Congress for Sale

Dr. Binoy Kampmark writes for CounterPunch:

‘The US Congress seems to be an amphitheatre, less of unflinching fear in the face of vested interests than the personification of those interests. It is fitting, in fact, that the Corporation, vested with a legal personality, has become the greatest unelected owner of the US congress, the master ventriloquist that articulates through the puppets that take up the role of House representatives and Senators.

As the mid-term elections bears down upon the United States, the various lobbies are muscling their way into the coffers of candidates on both sides of the aisle, punting for their best men and women. The nefarious form such bodies take is the Political-Action Committees (PACs), the anthrax of America’s political system. According to the Wall Street Journal, a “significant shift” has been registered, with business groups giving more largesse “to Republican candidates than to Democrats in seven of the most competitive Senate races in recent months, in some cases taking the unusual step of betting against sitting senators.”’

READ MORE…