Category Archives: Congress

The Missing Pages of the 9/11 Report

Eleanor Clift writes for The Daily Beast:

september 11 report, missing pages‘[…] Sen. Bob Graham said the redacted pages characterize the support network that allowed the 9/11 attacks to occur, and if that network goes unchallenged, it will only flourish. He said that keeping the pages classified is part of “a general pattern of coverup” that for 12 years has kept the American people in the dark. It is “highly improbable” the 19 hijackers acted alone, he said, yet the U.S. government’s position is “to protect the government most responsible for that network of support.”

The Saudis know what they did, Graham continued, and the U.S. knows what they did, and when the U.S. government takes a position of passivity, or actively shuts down inquiry, that sends a message to the Saudis. “They have continued, maybe accelerated their support for the most extreme form of Islam,” he said, arguing that both al Qaeda and ISIS are “a creation of Saudi Arabia.”

Standing with Graham were Republican Rep.Walter Jones and Democratic Rep. Stephen Lynch, co-sponsors of House Resolution 428, which says declassification of the 28 pages is necessary to provide the American public with the full truth surrounding the 9/11 attacks.’

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No freshness in our 2016 presidential contest

Dana Milbank writes for The Washington Post:

[…] This will be the seventh presidential campaign I’ve covered in some form, starting with a bit role in 1992. If the field develops the way it appears to be going, this will be my fourth Clinton campaign, fourth Bush campaign, third Romney campaign, third Paul campaign, second Huckabee campaign and second Santorum campaign. This isn’t an election — it’s a rerun.

The likely slate of candidates will include the son of a governor and presidential candidate, the son of a congressman and presidential candidate, the wife of a president and the brother of a president, son of a president and grandson of a senator. Nearly 2½ centuries after rebelling against the monarchy, our presidential contest has all the freshness of the House of Lords. Even the British royals have done a better job at bringing in new blood: Kate, the future queen, was a commoner.

The hereditary nature of the presidential race isn’t the disease but a symptom of our empty politics. In the absence of ideas and popular passion — the sort of spirit that briefly captured the nation’s imagination in 2008 — winning becomes about name recognition and celebrity. Known brands rate highly in early polls, which brings in money, which leads to victory.’

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NSA reform facing hard sell following Paris terror attacks

Julian Hattem reports for The Hill:

The push to reform the National Security Agency isn’t getting any easier.

After a reform bill was narrowly blocked on the Senate floor late last year, civil libertarians hoped that an upcoming deadline to reauthorize some of the spy agency’s controversial powers would give them another opportunity to force changes.

But the attacks in Paris last week, where gunmen killed 12 at a satirical newspaper and 4 at a kosher market, is making that job harder, and strengthening the resolve of the NSA’s backers.

[…] In the next five months, Congress needs to reauthorize a key portion of the Patriot Act which authorizes the NSA to collect virtually all Americans’ phone records without warrants.’

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CISPA Is Back… Because Of The Sony Hack, Which It Wouldn’t Have Prevented

Mike Masnick reports for Techdirt:

This isn’t a huge surprise, but Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the NSA’s personal Rep in Congress (NSA HQ is in his district), has announced that he’s bringing back CISPA, the cybersecurity bill designed to make it easier for the NSA to access data from tech companies (that’s not how the bill’s supporters frame it, but that’s the core issue in the bill). In the past, Ruppersberger had a teammate in this effort, Rep. Mike Rogers, but Rogers has moved onto his new career as a radio and TV pundit (CNN just proudly announced hiring him), so Ruppersberger is going it alone this time around.

Not surprisingly, he’s using the Sony Hack as a reason for why this bill is needed.’

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The greatest trick Obama ever pulled was convincing the world America isn’t still at war

Trevor Timm writes for The Guardian:

afghanistan soldier cloudThe holiday headlines blared without a hint of distrust: “End of War” and“Mission Ends” and “U.S. formally ends the war in Afghanistan”, as the US government and Nato celebrated the alleged end of the longest war in American history. Great news! Except, that is, when you read past the first paragraph: “the fighting is as intense as it has ever been since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001,” according to the Wall Street Journal. And about 10,000 troops will remain there for the foreseeable future (more than we had a year after the Afghan war started). Oh, and they’ll continue to engage in combat regularly. But other than that, yeah, the war is definitely over.

This is the new reality of war: As long as the White House doesn’t admit the United States is at war, we’re all supposed to pretend as if that’s true. This ruse is not just the work of the president. Members of Congress, who return to work this week, are just as guilty as Barack Obama in letting the public think we’re Definitely Not at War, from Afghanistan and Somalia to the new war with Isis in Iraq and Syria and beyond.’

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The most diverse U.S. Congress in history is 80% white, 80% male and 92% Christian

Philip Bump reports for The Washington Post:

‘Trying to predict the gender and race of a member of Congress is like trying to predict who would win a basketball game between the 1996 Chicago Bulls and the 2015 New York Knicks. Which is to say: It is like trying to predict who would win in an arithmetic competition between you and a talking horse. Which is to say: It is like trying to guess how many jellybeans are in a glass jar that contains two jellybeans. Which is to say: It is easy.

The 114th Congress, which gets to “work” on Tuesday, is one of the most diverse in American history, comprised of nearly 20 percent women and just over 17 percent of which is non-white. Which means, of course, that four out of five members of Congress are white and four out of five are men. Ergo, given the name of a member of Congress (at random: Oregon GOP Rep. Greg Walden), you can probably guess his or her gender and race.’

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Sony Hack a Prime Excuse for New US Cybersecurity Laws

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘Congress has been reluctant to pass the various draconian cybersecurity laws pushed by the administration in recent years, but that may be changing because of the high-profile Sony Pictures hack.

With the FBI ‘successfully’ pinning it on North Korea, at least so far as everyone on Capital Hill is concerned, there is a great deal of pressure for Congress to “do something,” and little interest in the evidence that North Korea had nothing to do with it.’

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A Brief History of the CIA’s Unpunished Spying on the Senate

Conor Friedersdorf writes for The Atlantic:

This is the story of John Brennan’s CIA spying on Congress and getting away with it.

Last March, Senator Dianne Feinstein accused the CIA of spying on the Senate intelligence committee as it labored to finalize its report on the torture of prisoners. “I have grave concerns that the CIA’s search may well have violated the separation of powers principles embodied in the United States Constitution,” she said. “I have asked for an apology and a recognition that this CIA search of computers used by its oversight committee was inappropriate. I have received neither.”

CIA Director John Brennan denied the charge. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he said. “We wouldn’t do that. That’s just beyond the scope of reason in terms of what we’d do.” It would be months before his denial was publicly proved false. “An internal investigation by the C.I.A. has found that its officers penetrated a computer network used by the Senate Intelligence Committee in preparing its damning report on the C.I.A.’s detention and interrogation program,” The New York Times reported. “The report by the agency’s inspector general also found that C.I.A. officers read the emails of the Senate investigators and sent a criminal referral to the Justice Department based on false information.”‘

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U.S. Approval of Congress Remains Near All-Time Low

Rebecca Riffkin reports for Gallup:

Congress' Job Approval Ratings, Yearly AveragesAmericans’ job approval rating for Congress averaged 15% in 2014, close to the record-low yearly average of 14% found last year. The highest yearly average was measured in 2001, at 56%. Yearly averages haven’t exceeded 20% in the past five years, as well as in six of the past seven years.

Congress’ approval rating has averaged less than 20% each year since 2010. In 2009, President Barack Obama’s first year in office in which he governed with a large Democratic majority in Congress, an average of 30% approved. Prior to 2008, Congress’ job approval over the 40-year history of Gallup’s measure had been below 20% only twice before, in 1979 and 1992.

After peaking in 2001 at 56%, a high figure that reflected the rally in support for government institutions after the 9/11 terror attacks, Americans’ approval of Congress has generally been dropping each year, with the exception of the spike in 2009.’

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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.’

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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.”’

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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.’

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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.’

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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.’

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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.’

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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.”‘

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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.’

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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.’

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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.’

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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.”

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