Reid: Supporters Of Nevada Rancher Are ‘Domestic Terrorists’

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) doubled down on his criticism of rancher Cliven Bundy Thursday, labeling the rancher’s supporters as “domestic terrorists.”

In an interview with the Las Vegas Review Journal, Reid accused Americans who defended Bundy against the Bureau of Land Management of being terrorists because they protested the Federal government’s actions while armed. The Senator also charged that some families put their children in harm’s way to protect the rancher.

“They’re nothing more than domestic terrorists,” Reid said. “I repeat: what happened there was domestic terrorism.”

Reid, who recently said that the Federal government is not finished with Bundy, went on to suggest that the rancher is a criminal for failing to acknowledge the Federal government’s demands that he pay $1 million in overdue grazing fees.

“Clive Bundy does not recognize the United States,” Reid said. “The United States, he says, is a foreign government. He doesn’t pay his taxes. He doesn’t pay his fees. And he doesn’t follow the law. He continues to thumb his nose at authority.”

The standoff between Bundy supporters and the Feds ended over the weekend when his confiscated cattle were returned— but officials continue in efforts to enact the government’s will over the rancher.

Reid, it seems, wants Federal officials to make an example of the rancher.

“It is an issue we cannot let go, just walk away from,” Reid said.

“There were hundreds, hundreds of people from around the country that came there,” Reid said. “They had sniper rifles in the freeway. They had weapons, automatic weapons. They had children lined up. They wanted to make sure they got hurt first … What if others tried the same thing?”

How High Does It Go?: New Emails Could Implicate Holder’s DOJ In IRS Targeting Of Conservatives

New emails obtained through a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit indicate that former Internal Revenues Service official Lois Lerner’s targeting of conservative groups was part of a broader assault on right-leaning groups by other Federal agencies.

The emails, obtained by Judicial Watch, reveal communication between Lerner and Justice Department officials regarding the possibility of prosecuting tax-exempt groups for making “false statements.” The email exchange took place just days before Lerner was forced to apologize for the IRS’s unfair targeting of conservatives.

In a May 8 email to Nikole C. Flax, former chief of staff to former-Acting IRS Commissioner Steven T. Miller, Lerner wrote:

I got a call today from Richard Pilger Director Elections Crimes Branch at DOJ … He wanted to know who at IRS the DOJ folk s [sic] could talk to about Sen. Whitehouse idea at the hearing that DOJ could piece together false statement cases about applicants who “lied” on their 1024s –saying they weren’t planning on doing political activity, and then turning around and making large visible political expenditures. DOJ is feeling like it needs to respond, but want to talk to the right folks at IRS to see whether there are impediments from our side and what, if any damage this might do to IRS programs. I told him that sounded like we might need several folks from IRS …”

Lerner, who was heading up the IRS’s tax-exempt organizations division at the time, was referencing suggestions Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) made during a Senate hearing on campaign finance last April.

In a reply, Flax said, “I think we should do it — also need to include CI [Criminal Investigation Division], which we can help coordinate.” She went on to suggest that the IRS should partner in the undertaking with the Federal Elections Commission.

In a later email to top IRS staff, Lerner sought to alleviate any concern that the targeting was politically motivated:

As I mentioned yesterday — there are several groups of folks from the FEC world that are pushing tax fraud prosecution for c4s who report they are not conducting political activity when they are (or these folks think they are). One is my ex-boss Larry Noble (former General Counsel at the FEC), who is now president of Americans for Campaign Reform. This is their latest push to shut these down. One IRS prosecution would make an impact and they wouldn’t feel so comfortable doing the stuff.

So, don’t be fooled about how this is being articulated — it is ALL about 501(c)(4) orgs and political activity

In other emails, however, Lerner acknowledged that the finding a legal means for the prosecutions would be difficult.

The emails largely serve to indicate that in the days leading up to inevitable bad press about the Federal government using the IRS to bully conservatives, top government officials were working feverishly to manufacture evidence that the targeting was justified via criminal prosecution.

They also provide evidence that Attorney General Eric Holder’s DOJ was well-aware of the targeting.

As House Republicans continue to in attempts to get more information about the extent of the IRS targeting, the newly released emails will likely be a major help to Congressional investigators.

“These new emails show that the day before she broke the news of the IRS scandal, Lois Lerner was talking to a top Obama Justice Department official about whether the DOJ could prosecute the very same organizations that the IRS had already improperly targeted,” Judicial Watch President Tom Fitton said in a statement. “The IRS emails show Eric Holder’s Department of Justice is now implicated and conflicted in the IRS scandal. No wonder we had to sue in federal court to get these documents.”

Rand Paul Calls For ‘Nuanced’ Foreign Policy, Neocon Attacks Continue

Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) has spent much of this week defending against attacks from foreign policy hawks who argue that his views are too extreme for American politics. The Senator, calling for ambiguity in foreign policy, made the case that “the extremes of foreign policy have had their way, and it has not worked” in a Wednesday opinion piece.

According the Senator’s Washington Times op-ed, his critics are asking for concrete answers to questions of how government should respond to foreign policy hypotheticals.

Writing that opposing a policy of containment in Iran does not mean that the U.S. should announce that it would never embrace such a policy, Paul charges that his critics’ foreign policy absolutism is a danger to U.S. security.

“To be against a ‘we will never contain Iran’ resolution is not the same as being for containment of a nuclear Iran,” Paul writes. “Rather, it means that foreign policy is complicated and doesn’t fit neatly within a bumper sticker, headline or tweet.

“Those who reduce it to such do a disservice to their reporting and, potentially, to the security of our nation.”

Instead, Paul believes that the U.S. should take a more nuanced approach to foreign policy—a strategy he argues is similar to Ronald Reagan’s foreign policy approach.

“If [Reagan] had been bluffing the Soviets with his Strategic Defense Initiative, or using it as leverage in negotiations, it would have been counterproductive to announce that in advance,” Paul argues.

“In fact, Reagan often practiced strategic ambiguity. He thought, as many other presidents have, that we should not announce to our enemies what we might do in every conceivable hypothetical situation.”

The Senator goes on to explain that he believes that foreign policy strategy allows U.S. officials to leave all options on the table, even, as a last resort, military intervention.

“Should war become necessary, the American people through their representatives must debate and deliberate the pros and cons of action and not be trapped into a predetermined response based on a resolution passed without debate or discussion,” Paul writes.

In his piece, the Senator also criticizes the fallacious all-or-nothing foreign policy choices provided in lawmakers’ talking points.

“False choices between being everywhere all of the time and nowhere any of the time are fodder for debate on Sunday morning shows or newspaper columns. Real foreign policy is made in the middle; with nuance; in the gray area of diplomacy, engagement and reluctantly, if necessary, military action.

Meanwhile on Wednesday, renowned neocon Representative Peter King of New York lashed out at Paul.

“I think he appeals to the lowest common denominator. This is an isolationist wing from the 1930s,” he said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

The lawmaker went on to call Paul’s opposition to government spying on U.S. citizens “just feeding into paranoia.”

“Rand Paul brings it to this hysterical level,” King said. “He talks about the CIA trying to kill Americans having coffee in Starbucks, when he talked about President Obama listening to his cell phone conversations.”

“That to me is just feeding into paranoia,” he added. “We do need an intelligent debate, and I don’t think Rand Paul is capable of having that debate.”

Elizabeth Warren For President: ‘It Don’t Get No Better’

The president of the Nation’s largest federation of labor unions told participants in a Reddit “Ask Me Anything” session that “it don’t get no better” than Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), before suggesting that the liberal Democrat should run for President.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka, who campaigned for Warren during her 2012 race against t then-Senator Scott Brown (R), told Redditors: “I have met Elizabeth Warren on multiple occasions. Both before she was a Senator, while she was running for Senator and after she was elected. In my opinion she is the prototype of a person we would want to be president of the United States. She has a very well defined set of values and unlike many politicians, she actually sticks by those values and fights to implement them. In short, it don’t get no better.”

Warren has said in recent months that she has no plans to run for President in 2016. This week, most headlines about the union-friendly Senator have been related to her forthcoming memoir “A Fighting Chance”, which chronicles her personal and political life— including the pain caused by scrutiny of her alleged Native American heritage.

Trumka, asked how he explains the benefits of unions to Americans with anti-union sentiments, also offered this gem: “A simple story. My four-year-old son many years ago asked me what a union was. He was playing one of those little pedal cars at the time. And I told him to push the pedal car up the steep hill. And he couldn’t do it. And then I got him and his two friends and asked all 3 of them to push the car up the hill and they did it. And I said, son, that’s what a union does. it (sic) allows people to do things together they can’t do alone.”

Rand Paul Questions Number Of Armed Federal Agents, Criticizes Government Treatment Of Rancher

While many GOP politicians remain mum on the Federal response to Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy’s refusal to pay grazing fees, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) criticized the government’s actions this week.

During a radio interview, Paul called out Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and questioned why the government has so many armed personnel.

After a tense standoff between Federal agents and Bundy supporters, some of whom were armed, culminated in the government backing down and releasing the rancher’s livestock, Reid said Monday that the standoff is far from over.

“Well, it’s not over,” Reid told KRNV. “We can’t have an American people that violate the law and then just walk away from it. So it’s not over.”

American citizens shouldn’t violate the law, Paul agreed— however, the government shouldn’t either.

“I think there’s an opposite thing to what Harry Reid said, and that’s the federal government shouldn’t violate the law, nor should we have 48 Federal agencies carrying weapons and having SWAT teams,” Paul said Tuesday in a radio interview with the Kentucky-based WHAS.

The lawmaker went on to say that the disputed land, which the Bundy family had leased from the county before a Federal takeover, should be returned to local control—a goal he believes can be best achieved in court.

“Can everybody decide what the law is on their own? No, there has to be a legal process,” he said. “But I think there is definitely a philosophic debate over who should own the land.

“I hope it’ll go through a court. But if it were in a court, I would be siding and wanting to say that look, the States and the individuals in the State should own these lands,” he continued.

Lawmaker’s Attempt To Increase Congressional Pay Quashed In House

Last week Representative Jim Moran (D-Va.) acknowledged that a majority of Americans think that he and his colleagues are doing a terrible job . But, he said, America’s lawmakers still need to be given a raise. A voice vote on Wednesday illustrated that the lawmaker’s Congressional counterparts either disagree or don’t want to be thrown out by voters.

Moran’s attempt to increase lawmaker compensation via an amendment to the legislative branch’s 2015 appropriations bill was overwhelmingly rejected in a House Appropriations Committee voice vote on Wednesday.

The amendment would have provided lawmakers with a $25 per day housing stipend, about a $2,800 raise for this year.

Moran, who reportedly lives just 10 miles from the Capitol, said that his amendment would only apply to lawmakers who live more than 50 miles from Washington, D.C.

The lawmaker’s main argument for the pay raise is that the current Congressional salary of $174,000 — plus travel and work-related expenses provided on the taxpayer dime — simply isn’t enough for the Nation’s political class to “live decently in Washington.”

Some lawmakers sleep in their offices while in D.C., and others are forced to live in “tiny” apartments in the city, Moran argued last week.

“You might ask why I am doing this. Certainly my staff has asked me this,” Moran said on the House floor.

The Congressman said that rent prices near the Capitol have doubled over the past decade and that repeated lawmaker pay freezes are creating a situation where only the wealthiest Americans can afford to be elected to office.

The clueless Congressman also said that, since announcing his initiative last week, his office had been inundated with calls from angry Americans. That isn’t particularly surprising considering that average Americans — a group whose collective median income is just over $50,000 a year — have consecutively rated Congress’ job performance at record lows.

“Almost all of them using obscene language…none of them supportive,” he added.

Moran is slated to retire at the end of this Congressional term.

The remainder of the 2015 legislative appropriations bill was passed once the pay raise amendment was defeated. The bill allots $3.3 billion for legislative operations in 2015, not including Senate expenditures.

Iowa Senate Candidate On Gun Rights: #GotBalls?

An underdog Iowa Senate hopeful recently released a campaign video that is just campy enough to be charming. Bob Quast, an independent running a write-in campaign, wants Iowans to know that he has a very personal interest in protecting their Constitutional rights, especially the 2nd Amendment.

In the ad, titled #GotBalls, Quast promises to fight for Congressional term limits and uphold the 2nd Amendment. He then offers a personal anecdote which explains why gun rights are non-negotiable to him.

“If you are the sexual predator and sociopath who murdered my sister Lynette, and you come to my front door to hurt my girls, I’m gonna use my glock to blow your balls off,” he says, with gun in hand.

Quast’s sister was murdered and dismembered by her husband in 1999, which Quast later wrote a book “Life 101”, about.

“Congressman Braley, you have nothing to fear, as we are friendly folks here in Iowa,” he continues later in the ad.

Quast goes on to tell Braley he won’t take his gun to the debate “as long as you agree to leave your elite law degree in D.C.,” a reference to Braley’s recent smear of Senator Chuck Grassley as just a “farmer from Iowa who never went to law school.”

Eric Holder All In With Race Card: ‘What AG Has Ever Had To Deal With That Kind Of Treatment?’

During a speech at Al Sharpton’s 2014 National Action Network (NAN) Convention Wednesday, Attorney General Eric Holder went off script to vilify House lawmakers who recently brought up the still-pending contempt case against him.

U.S. President Barack Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder attend the 32st Annual National Peace Officers Memorial Service at the West Front Lawn of the U.S. Capitol in Washington, DC on May 15, 2013. Obama attended the annual event to honor law enforcement who were killed in the line of duty in the previous year. UPI/Olivier Douliery/Pool

Representative Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) suggested that “contempt is not a big deal to our attorney general” during a Judiciary hearing on Tuesday, enraging Holder.

“You don’t want to go there, buddy. You don’t want to go there, OK?” the Attorney General told Gohmert.

Later in the day, Representative Blake Farenthold, also a Texas Republican, refused to question Holder altogether because of the contempt charge.

“I’m committed to maintaining the Constitutional balance of power and the authority that this legislative branch has, and I just don’t think it’s appropriate that Mr. Holder be here,” he announced. “If an American citizen had not complied with one of the Justice Department’s subpoenas, they would be in jail and not sitting here in front of me, testifying.”

Throughout the hearing, Holder spoke in irritated tones and muttered at least one insult directed at Gohmert.

Speaking to the Sharpton crowd On Wednesday, the Attorney General charged that the lawmakers’ actions had nothing to do with the Justice Department he presides over stymieing a Congressional investigation into the fatally-flawed Fast and Furious gun program.

Here is an off-the-record portion of Holder’s speech which didn’t appear in the transcript released by the DOJ:

I’m pleased to note that the last five years have been defined by significant strides and by lasting reforms even in the face, even in the face, of unprecedented, unwarranted, ugly, and divisive adversity. If you don’t believe that, if you look at the way, forget about me, forget about me, if you look at the way the attorney general of the United States was treated yesterday by a House Committee, it had nothing to do with me, forget that, what attorney general has ever had to deal with that kind of treatment?

To be exceedingly fair, Holder didn’t actually use the words “racists,” “racism” or any other variations thereof. But considering his audience, it doesn’t take an imaginative stretch to understand what was implied: Gohmert, Farenthold— and presumably anyone else who asked him a tough question or went there by mentioning contempt— are clearly racists.

And if that’s not what Holder meant, efforts to elucidate his remarks to a different end provide even more worrisome possibilities than the U.S. Attorney General mistaking oversight mandated by the Constitutional balance of powers for outright racism. (That inference, by the way, isn’t difficult to make because it’s completely plausible, likely even, that Holder views the Constitution as a fundamentally racist document better scrapped and re-written than amended.)

If Holder wasn’t calling the House lawmakers racists without using the word, it means that “it had nothing to do with me, forget that” is the most important thing he said. Was it an admission that the withholding of the Fast and Furious documents that precipitated his contempt charge was ordered from higher up? That the AG is the fall guy? Or does it mean Holder really believes that he holds absolutely no responsibility for the agencies which he presides over?

The answer is probably in the unreleased documents. But, of course, efforts to have them released are, well, you know… racist.

What a powerful tool the race card has become.

Attorney General To Lawmaker Who Mentioned Contempt: ‘You Don’t Want To Go There, Buddy’

Attorney General Eric Holder, according to the opinion of many conservatives who have watched him glide unscathed through scandal after scandal, views himself as untouchable. And his response to Representative Louie Gohmert’s (R-Texas) line of questioning during a House Judiciary Hearing Tuesday did little to assuage the reputation the AG has earned for himself.

Gohmert questioned Holder about the Justice Department’s failure to hand over documents pertaining to a DOJ case against the Holy Land Foundation, a Texas-based group whose members were convicted and sentenced for funneling money to Hamas.

The defendants have since blamed the conviction on their lawyers; but the DOJ disputes the claim, saying that there is a “mountain of evidence” that indicates the charity was working with Hamas.

“I was fairly specific to make sure that I got the documents that the Department of Justice handed over to people convicted of supporting terrorism. They’re terrorists. We’ve given them the documents,” Gohmert said during the hearing.

The lawmaker said that, rather than complying with the repeated requests from Congress, DOJ also provided a link to “nearly 500 publicly available exhibits that were admitted into evidence.” Justice officials further instructed the lawmaker’s office “to check the public access to court electronic records.”

“Attorney General, I’ve read in the 5th Circuit opinion, about 9,600 summaries of transcripts of conversations that the Justice Department had that were made available to attorneys for the terrorists,” Gohmert said. “I still do not understand why your department can provide documents to terrorists’ lawyers, and many of them to four out of eight of the terrorists, and not provide them to members of Congress.”

“Sir, I’ve read you what your department promised, and it is inadequate, and I realize that contempt is not a big deal to our attorney general, but it is important that we have proper oversight,” Gohmert said referring to the House’s 2012 vote to hold the AG in contempt for failing to turn over Fast and Furious documents.

That’s when Holder got upset.

The AG shot back, “You don’t want to go there, buddy. You don’t want to go there, OK?”

“I don’t want to go there?” Gohmert asked. “About the contempt?”

“You should not assume that that is not a big deal to me,” Holder continued. “I think it was inappropriate. I think it was unjust, but never think that was not a big deal to me. Don’t ever think that.”

Gohmert went on to note that the contempt vote certainly didn’t seem to be a big deal for the Justice Department, as it has still not made an effort to produce the Fast and Furious documents requested.

“I’m just looking for evidence and normally we’re known by our fruits and there’s been no indications that it was a big deal because your department still has not been forthcoming in producing the documents that were the subject of the contempt,” Gohmert said.

The documents Gohmert was referring to are copies of Justice Department internal emails dated after Feb. 4, 2011. That’s the point at which Justice officials realized they would have to retract a letter to Congress denying that the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives put guns into the hands of Mexican criminals.

Holder went on to charge that the Fast and Furious contempt vote “was all about the gun lobby.”

“Sir,” Gohmert cut him off, “We’ve been trying to get to the bottom of Fast and Furious — where people died, where at least a couple hundred Mexicans died — and we can’t get the information to get to the bottom of that.”

“So I don’t need lectures from you about contempt,” the lawmaker continued.

Gohmert went on to note that, as a former judge, he had never before asked questions of someone who has been held in contempt.

As the lawmaker’s time ran out, with no answers about the documents originally in question, Holder jumped in with a last-word insult based on a gaffe Gohmert made during an exchange between the two last year.

“Good luck with your asparagus,” Holder muttered.

Last year, during a heated debate over whether the Justice Department failed to avert the Boston Marathon bombing, Holder told the lawmaker, “You cannot know what I know.”

To which Gohmert famously misspoke, “[Do not] cast aspersions on my asparagus.”

Study: Americans Most Ignorant Of Where Ukraine Is Located Are Also Most Willing To Send U.S. Troops There

A recent poll concerning the ongoing trouble in Ukraine found that only roughly one in six Americans know where the country is geographically located— many believe it is located somewhere in Europe or Asia and some misplaced the nation by 1,800 miles. What’s more disturbing than the respondents’ lacking geography skills, however, is that those who most inaccurately identified Ukraine were also the most likely to support U.S. military intervention in the nation.

World Map Blue
Can you locate Ukraine? CREDIT: THINKSTOCK

The survey, conducted by a team consisting of Dartmouth, Harvard and Princeton political scientists, asked 2,066 Americans to locate Ukraine on a map. Respondents were also asked to provide opinions on what action the U.S. should take in Ukraine along with identifying demographic information.

“We wanted to see where Americans think Ukraine is and to learn if this knowledge (or lack thereof) is related to their foreign policy views,” the researchers explained in a Washington Post column. “We found that only one out of six Americans can find Ukraine on a map, and that this lack of knowledge is related to preferences: The farther their guesses were from Ukraine’s actual location, the more they wanted the U.S. to intervene with military force.”

Who Could Locate Ukraine?:

  • 27 percent of 18-24 year olds
  • 14 percent of 65+ year-olds
  • 20 percent of men
  • 13 percent  of women
  • 16.1 percent of people from military households
  • 16 percent of people from non-military households
  • 29 percent of independents
  • 14 percent of Democrats
  • 15 percent of Republicans
  • 21 percent of college graduates
  • 13 percent of people without a college degree

The researchers discovered that 45 percent of Americans supported diplomatic pressure such as a U.S. boycott of the G8 Summit in response to the Ukrainian crises, and just 13 percent supported military intervention.

Among the 13 percent with hawkish responses, however, the researchers recognized an unsettling trend.

They relayed: “Even controlling for a series of demographic characteristics and participants’ general foreign policy attitudes, we found that the less accurate our participants were, the more they wanted the U.S. to use force, the greater the threat they saw Russia as posing to U.S. interests, and the more they thought that using force would advance U.S. national security interests; all of these effects are statistically significant at a 95 percent confidence level.”

More about the survey via The Washington Post.

NSA Whistle-Blower Snowden Did Try Government Protocol First, But Also Took Steps To Avoid Being Abused Like His Predecessors

Since his leaks on the National Security Agency, Edward Snowden has been attacked by numerous government officials who describe him as a rogue troublemaker whose actions have put American lives in danger. If he’d only followed the proper bureaucratic protocol in voicing his concerns, they say, he wouldn’t be so easy to paint as a traitor. There’s just one problem, according to a recent interview with Snowden: He did.

Last summer, a number of U.S. lawmakers from both parties rushed to declare Snowden guilty of treason for taking the information he’d uncovered public rather than up the NSA’s chain of command.

“On the strength of leaking that [information], yes, that would be a prosecutable offense, and I think that he should be prosecuted,” Representative Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said at the time.

Fellow California Senate Democrat Dianne Feinstein said that Snowden is guilty of treason.

“I don’t look at this as being a whistle-blower,” Feinstein said. “I think it’s an act of treason.”

Senator Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), in a tweet around the same time, said, “I hope we follow Mr. Snowden to the ends of the earth to bring him to justice.”

Snowden has since been routinely derided by politicians and security hawks, accused of everything from providing sensitive information to foreign governments to being more harmful to human life than Jeffrey Dahmer.

You read that right. Speaking at the Breitbart National Security Summit in March, Republican Iowa Representative Steve King compared revealing the government’s unConstitutional actions to brutally raping, torturing and murdering at least 17 human beings.

“Snowden has done more damage to America than anybody else I can think of in history,” King claimed.

The lawmaker went on to charge, “”I would take it so far as to say that probably even Jeffrey Dahmer analyzed in a similar way, and he didn’t do nearly as much damage as Snowden did.”

Lawmakers beholden to the Nation’s burgeoning security apparatus will continue to go out of their way to portray Snowden as a scumbag rather than an American concerned about the government’s post-9/11 abrogation in the name of “security.” But if Snowden’s recent claim that he tried to follow protocol, going so far as to send repeated emails to NSA officials about what he regarded as a perverse interpretation of surveillance laws, is true, the job of his detractors is about to become much more difficult.

The revelation that Snowden tried to make changes the “right” way before leaking troves of NSA documents comes in a 20,000 word piece in the May edition of Vanity Fair. The work, complete with interviews with a number of sources close to the controversy, purports to be the first comprehensive account of how Snowden found himself on the Federal government’s shit list.

The magazine includes the following passage among highlights from the interview in an online teaser of the article:

Snowden challenges allegations that he never filed a formal complaint about the N.S.A. to internal oversight and compliance bodies: N.S.A. deputy director Rick Ledgett, who led the internal investigation of Snowden, claimed Snowden made no formal complaints. And if he complained personally to anyone, Ledgett tells Vanity Fair, he or she has not acknowledged it.

In response to this claim, Snowden replies, “The N.S.A. at this point not only knows I raised complaints, but that there is evidence that I made my concerns known to the N.S.A.’s lawyers, because I did some of it through e-mail. I directly challenge the N.S.A. to deny that I contacted N.S.A. oversight and compliance bodies directly via e-mail and that I specifically expressed concerns about their suspect interpretation of the law, and I welcome members of Congress to request a written answer to this question [from the N.S.A.].”

When asked about his initial reaction to the revelation that Snowden was the leak, Ledgett tells Vanity Fair there was a personal sense of betrayal, stating, “It was like getting kicked in the stomach.”

And lest you think that Snowden’s formal complaints went unaddressed because they were simply misplaced somewhere in the bureaucratic underpinnings of the Nation’s surveillance apparatus, consider the plight of NSA whistle-blowers who had previously attempted to reveal similar NSA abuses.

Via a Personal Liberty Digest™  piece from June:

Thomas Drake, William Binney and J. Kirk Wiebe are likely three men whom Snowden spent time thinking about before making the decision to make public NSA documents. But his whistle-blowing predecessors largely failed to create a mainstream buzz with complaints of the NSA’s Constitutional abuse. The trio’s failure to garner attention was not because they were failing to present shocking information of totalitarian surveillance; rather, they failed because they — for the most part — followed rules put in place by the system to avoid being snuffed out by the bureaucratic machine.

Each action they took gave government a chance to counteract in the interest of quieting public outrage; and when the power structure tired of attempts to reveal NSA’s actions, the marked men were easily bound and gagged with red tape.

Binney explains why no one within government will ever recognize a problem and enact change by following the structured patch of revealing problems to the chain of command or other government agencies before putting the information directly in the public square.

“We tried to stay for the better part of seven years inside the government trying to get the government to recognize the unconstitutional, illegal activity that they were doing and openly admit that and devise certain ways that would be constitutionally and legally acceptable to achieve the ends they were really after,” Binney said. “And that just failed totally because no one in Congress or — we couldn’t get anybody in the courts, and certainly the Department of Justice and inspector general’s office didn’t pay any attention to it. And all of the efforts we made just produced no change whatsoever. All it did was continue to get worse and expand.”

Drake was hardest hit for his efforts to reveal abuses to the public. Eventually growing tired of the NSA’s efforts to silence his protestations about the agency’s abuses of the Constitution, he spoke to a reporter.

The former senior intelligence official was consequently harassed by the FBI for years and charged with 10 felonies, five of them under the archaic 1917 Espionage Act.

The charges— clear acts of government retribution— were eventually defeated and Drake pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of “exceeding authorized use of a computer” and was sentenced to one year of probation and community service.

Average Americans spanning the political spectrum and a handful of libertarian-leaning politicians were outraged by the information contained in Snowden’s leaks. But even among those who weren’t, it seems the whistle-blower’s enemies would be hard pressed to find anyone who could logically fault Snowden for learning from Drake’s mistakes.

The young privacy advocate certainly realized the dire consequences of running afoul of the surveillance state and— seemingly with the inevitable retaliation in mind— took the steps to do what he felt right while hedging against efforts to silence his message.

“Every person remembers some moment in their life where they witnessed some injustice, big or small, and looked away, because the consequences of intervening seemed too intimidating,” Snowden told Vanity Fair. “But there’s a limit to the amount of incivility and inequality and inhumanity that each individual can tolerate. I crossed that line. And I’m no longer alone.”

Biden Flogs Dead Voter ID Horse In Effort To Help 2014 Democrats

In a video for the Democratic National Committee released Monday, Vice President Joe Biden ridiculed the 11 States that are attempting to combat fraud at the polls via voter ID laws.

Biden also denounced 50 other “restrictive” voter-related bills being considered on the heels of the Supreme Court’s decision last year to strike down key portions of Voting Rights Act.

In the YouTube video that was, unsurprisingly, first picked up by MSNBC, the Vice President insinuated that voter ID laws are indicative of American regression.

“If someone had said to me 10 years ago that I’d have to make a pitch for protecting voting rights today I would have said ‘you’ve got to be kidding,’” he said.

Biden also referenced the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s comment that “voting is the foundation stone for political action” in his video effort to aid the DNC’s Voter Expansion Project ahead of November’s midterms.

“I thought at that time the only debate we would be having at that time would be how to expand the voting franchise, but last year when the Supreme Court cut the heart out of the Voting Rights Act it opened up the floodgates to voter suppression, voter suppression efforts nationwide,” he said.

Biden also called out a handful of individual State voter ID laws, including a law in Texas that allows for the use of a concealed carry permit but not a student ID — the reason for which is, of course, obvious to all but the Veep.

“It’s time to stand up and to fight back. That’s why the Democratic National Committee’s Voter Expansion Project is training staff and volunteers to protect the right to vote all across this nation,” Biden said.

Referencing the original fight for voter rights in the 60s, Biden went on, “This is a fight we have to make again, but it’s a fight we can win again.”

The Vice President and fellow Democrats have, for months, been rallying against voter ID laws in the lead-up to the 2014 midterms. But recent polling indicates that the majority of Americans actually favor laws that target voter fraud.

A Rasmussen poll late last month revealed that just 19 percent of likely U.S. voters oppose the idea of requiring proof of voter citizenship laws, and only 29 percent believe that the laws are in any way discriminatory.

Seventy-eight percent support the laws, up from 71 percent last year. And 61 percent of respondents said that they do not think that there is any discriminatory nature to voter ID requirements.

After Reporters Are Violated For Photographing Defense Contractor, Newspaper Sues

An Ohio newspaper has filed suit against the Federal government over the detention of two journalists and the confiscation of their equipment by military police late last month.

On March 28, reporter Tyrel Linkhorn and photographer Jetta Fraser, both of Toledo’s The Blade, were detained outside of the government-owned, contractor-operated General Dynamics Land Systems under “suspicion of terrorism” for taking photographs.

Fraser and Linkhorn had been covering a press conference at a nearby Ford Motor Co. plant and stopped off in the industrial area to shoot photos of other local industry for future newsroom use, according to The Blade.

According to a report in the newspaper, the two “stayed outside the plant’s gate and did not pass an unmanned guard shack,” and assumed that they were within their rights to photograph anything in clear view of the public.

“At all material times, Plaintiffs Fraser and Linkhorn were present in places that were open to the public and in which Plaintiffs had a lawful right to be,” the newspaper’s lawsuit states. “At all material times, Plaintiffs Fraser and Linkhorn were engaged in fully lawful and constitutionally protected conduct, observing and photographing subjects that were and are open to public view and that Plaintiffs had full legal and constitutional rights to observe and photograph.”

Once they were detained, the reporters allege their Constitutional rights were violated and that they were physically threatened by the Department of Army Police officials.

Via The Blade:

Ms. Fraser took several photographs, all of which were of property visible from public streets. As the pair were leaving, they were stopped by three officers from the Department of Army Police and questioned.

The officers asked for identification. Ms. Fraser showed the officers her Blade identification, but initially refused to provider her driver’s license, since she was not driving any vehicle. The officers removed her from the vehicle and placed her in handcuffs.

The officers kept Ms. Fraser in handcuffs for more than an hour. The officers on several occasions referred to Ms. Fraser “in terms denoting the masculine gender,” according to the lawsuit. Ms. Fraser objected; later, an officer told her, “You say you are a female, I’m going to go under your bra.”

The officers confiscated two cameras, memory cards, a pocket-sized personal calendar, and a notebook.

The journalists’ equipment was later returned after the newspaper asked Senator Rob Portman (R-Ohio) to intervene — but only after “a number of pictures had been deleted, including all photographs of the Joint Systems Manufacturing Center and of the Husky Refinery Plant.”

The Blade is seeking unspecified damages and acknowledgement that the journalists’ 1st, 4th and 5th Amendment rights and their rights under the 1st Amendment Privacy Protection Act. Defendants in the lawsuit include Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Joint Systems Manufacturing Center official Lt. Col. Matthew Hodge and military police officer Lt. Stelzer, among others.

Reporting on the case, Photography Is Not A Crime blogger Carlos Miller added an interesting anecdote: “Just last year, General Dynamics Land Systems landed a nice contract with Saudi Arabia to build tanks for its army, which probably wouldn’t hesitate to use them against citizens who try to photograph them, considering they are ranked almost last in the world when it comes to freedom of the press.”

Watch: AG Eric Holder Explains The DOJ’s Taxpayer Millions For ‘Gun-Safety Technology’

Last week, Attorney General Eric Holder explained to lawmakers that the Justice Department needs an additional $382.1 million in increased spending for fiscal 2014 so that it can “explore” new gun-control efforts such as bracelets that “talk to” guns.

I think that one of the things that we learned when we were trying to get passed those common sense reforms last year, Vice President Biden and I had a meeting with a group of technology people and talked about how guns can be made more safe by making them either through finger print identification, the gun talks to a bracelet or something that you might wear, how guns can be used only by the person who is lawfully in possession of the weapon.

It’s those kinds of things that I think we want to try to explore so that we can make sure that people have the ability to enjoy their Second Amendment rights, but at the same time decreasing the misuse of weapons that lead to the kinds of things that we see on a daily basis.

Earlier this year, Senator Ed Markey (D-Mass.) floated a bill that would require all new handguns to include “smart” technology similar to the talking bracelets Holder referenced within two years and that older guns be retrofitted within three years to render the firearms inoperable to unauthorized users.

In revealing his legislation, Markey said that the law’s main purpose will be to prevent law enforcement officers from having their own weapons used against them, prevent accidental shooting deaths of children and combat the use of stolen guns in crime.

“No one wants children to get access to a handgun and hurt themselves or others,” Markey said at the time. “This is the type of gun safety legislation that everyone — regardless of political party or affiliation — should be able to support.”

H/T: Washington Free Beacon 

‘Not A Bug Splat’: Project Launched To Remind Drone Operators Of Civilian Casualties

Late last year, former U.S. Air Force imagery analyst Heather Linebaugh told The Guardian that civilian casualty rates from drone strikes are high because the pilots are often unable to get a clear picture of the targets they kill. Linebaugh’s revelation provides context for why drone operators routinely refer to people killed in their operations as “bug splat[s]”. An artist collective in Pakistan is working to change that.

notbug
CREDIT: NOTABUGSPLAT.COM

A collaboration of artists working with the Foundation for Fundamental Rights have installed a massive portrait of a nameless child in the heavily-bombed Khyber Pukhtoonkhwa region of Pakistan. According to the artists, the portrait of the young girl— who was reportedly killed in a strike alongside her parents and two young siblings— is visible on the grainy screen of drone operators.

CREDIT: NOTABUGSPLAT.COM

“The group of artists traveled inside KPK province and, with the assistance of highly enthusiastic locals, unrolled the poster amongst mud huts and farms,” says a post on a website dedicated to the project. “It is their hope that this will create empathy and introspection amongst drone operators, and will create dialogue amongst policy makers, eventually leading to decisions that will save innocent lives.”

Credit: NOTABUGSPLAT.COM

The artists launched the initiative along with the Twitter handle #NotABugSplat.

More Personal Liberty Digest™ coverage of the U.S.’s drone program:

Slippery Slope: U.S. Government Aiming Missiles At Cellphones Overseas

If U.S. Drone Strikes In Pakistan And Yemen Are Legal Under International Law As Obama Claims, Does That Mean Other Nations Recognizing Terror Threats In U.S. Territory Can Legally Order A Drone Strike Here?

Rights Groups: Civilian Casualties In Drone Strikes Soar, Administration Officials Guilty Of War Crimes

On Heels Of Foreign Policy Change Speech, Obama Drone Strikes In Sovereign Nations Continue

Former Air Force Analyst: Drone Pilots Can’t Tell The Difference Between A Shovel And A Weapon

U.S. Drone Mistakenly Strikes Wedding Convoy In Yemen, Kills 14

CIA Must Release Some Drone Info, But Don’t Expect Much

How To Dodge A Drone Strike

Peace Prize President Prepares For All-Out Drone Assaults

America’s Mighty Drones

The CIA Wants More Drones

U.N. Investigator: Obama’s Drones Violate Human Rights

Drones: Big Brother’s Eye In The Sky

Sunday News Show Roundup

Guests on Sunday’s political talk shows discussed a broad range of topics this week, including the tragic shooting at Fort Hood in Texas, the Senate Intelligence Committee’s decision to release portions of a classified report on the CIA’s enhanced interrogation tactics, and the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down aggregate campaign limits.

Shooting Tragedy

Lawmakers and top military brass made the news show rounds to discuss the ongoing investigation into the Fort Hood shooting as well the complex hardships America’s service members face. Fort Hood shooter Spc. Ivan Lopez’s history of depression and mental illness took a center stage in much of the debate.

Retired Adm. Michael Mullen told NBC’s “Meet the Press” that, rather than having a discussion about more armed personnel at the Nation’s military installations, officials should be looking for ways to better understand the underlying mental illness behind tragedies such as the Fort Hood shooting.

“I’m not one — as someone who has been on many, many bases and posts — that would argue for arming anybody who is on base. I think that actually invites much more difficult challenges,” the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said.

Mullen said later, “Right now, in our thirteenth year of war, it’s a time of great stress for our military… just what I’ve seen in this particular example indicates the mix of characteristics and issues that are associated with that stress—to include anxiety and depression, possible post-traumatic stress, mild [traumatic brain injury], dealing with financial and personal problems.”

On CBS’s “Face the Nation” Representative Michael McCaul (R-Texas) also suggested that the uptick of violence at military bases is directly related to inadequate focus on the mental health of U.S. veterans.

“We do a good job of healing broken bodies, but not such a great job at healing broken minds with our returning veterans,” he said.

Representative John Carter (R-Texas), a lawmaker from the district where Fort Hood is located, expressed a similar sentiment on ABC’s “This Week.”

“The issue of mental health among service members is critical. And we got two issues that come up in everything—why and what can we do,” he said. “And what can we do is we have to have to provide more resources both at the DOD level and at the VA level, and that transition needs to be smooth.”

On “Fox News Sunday,” McCaul said that, while he didn’t believe anything could prevent tragedies like that at Fort Hood 100 percent of the time, it’s time for the military to rethink gun policies on bases.

“They defend us overseas and abroad and defend our freedom abroad. So, the idea that they’re defenseless when they come home on our bases, I think Congress should be looking at that and having a discussion with the bases about what will be the best policy,” he said.

CIA Torture

Discussing a likely soon-to-be-released Senate Intelligence Committee report on the CIA’s renewed use of interrogation and detention tactics under the Bush Administration, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) derided former Vice President Dick Cheney on CNN’s “State of the Union.”

“I think he’s proud of it,” Pelosi said.

The Senate report, which the Intelligence Committee voted 11-to-3 to declassify portions of last week, reportedly calls into question the value of intelligence the CIA gathered using controversial techniques like waterboarding.

“I do believe … that Vice President Cheney set a tone and an attitude for the CIA,” Pelosi said. “I think it came from Dick Cheney. That’s what I believe.”

House Intelligence Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), during a separate segment on the show, accused Pelosi of politicizing the issue to benefit Democrats facing a tough election year.

“What worries me about that more than any other statement is that politicizes this in a way that’s horribly counterproductive and likely to lead people to the wrong conclusions,” Rogers said.

The Congressman went on to ponder, “Why now in an election year would you bring this up and then to say this is about Dick Cheney?”

Meanwhile, former CIA director Michael Hayden, who presided over the agency during much of the time the controversial tactics were employed, zeroed in on Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) on “Fox News Sunday.”

Feinstein, who ordered the Senate report, recently said that its declassification would “ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.”

“That sentence, that motivation for the report, may show deep, emotional feeling on the part of the Senator. But I don’t think it leads you to an objective report,” Hayden charged.

Feinstein shot back in a separate interview, saying, “I am certain it will stand on its own merits.”

McCutcheon v. Federal Election Commission

Discussing last week’s landmark Supreme Court decision to strike down limits on aggregate campaign contributions, NBC’s David Gregory was critical of the ruling, asking, “How does this not at some point lead to corruption?”

“Here’s a new reality, right, American democracy for sale,” Gregory said.

Shaun McCutcheon, the victorious plaintiff in the case, said he views the decision as the Court supporting Americans’ right to “support as many candidates, committees and PACs you choose.”

“There’s lots of money in politics. Again, individual people exercising freedom of speech is a good thing, bringing competition to the process,” McCutcheon said.

The Alabama businessman added that donors “shouldn’t be limited to nine candidates or ten candidates.”

Public Citizen President Robert Weissman disagreed, saying that Americans with the wherewithal and inclination to give multimillion dollar checks to party leaders … are going to have a lot of influence.”

“But it’s going to be at the expense of the rest of us,” he added.

State Department Misplaced $6 Billion In Taxpayer Money In Past Six Years

As chatter continues about the prospect of a Hillary Clinton Presidency in 2016, an Inspector General report raises new questions about the former Secretary of State’s leadership abilities. The report released this week details how the State Department misplaced $6 billion in taxpayer funds due to improper filing of contracts, mostly during Clinton’s tenure as top diplomat.

The State Department’s new Inspector General Steve Linick issued a special “management alert” warning that the Department’s mismanagement of the $6 billion over the past six years, four of which were during Clinton’s tenure, “creates significant financial risk and demonstrates lack of internal control …”

The report outlines numerous examples of “poor contract file administration” that create “conditions conducive to fraud, as corrupt individuals may attempt to conceal evidence of illicit behavior by omitting key documents from the contract file.”

For example, the IG noted that contract documents related to the U.S. war in Iraq could not be located in 33 out of 115 cases.

From the report:

The value of the contracts in the 33 missing [Iraqi War] files totaled $2.1 billion. Forty-eight of the 82 contract files received did not contain all of the documentation required by FAR 4.8. The value of the contracts in the 48 incomplete files totaled an additional $2.1 billion. An ongoing OIG audit of Bureau of African Affairs contracts revealed that CORs were unable to provide complete contract administration files for any of the eight contracts that were reviewed. The value of these contracts totaled $34.8 million.

In other instances the IG report indicates that the State Department failed to follow up on contracts to ensure that funds were properly used. The report provided one example wherein a $2.5 million contract lacked status reports or a tally of the amount of funding left for the contract.

The IG suggested that the State Department put a centralized system in place to track and maintain contract files and also to implement random checkups on contracts.

Linick’s “management alert” is only the second such urgent IG report in State Department history. The first, also issued by Linick in January, outlined “significant and recurring weaknesses in the Department of State Information System Security Program.”

President Barack Obama nominated Linick for the State Department’s Office of Inspector General last summer after the position had been vacant for five years, longer than any other Federal IG vacancy in the Nation’s history and most of Clinton’s tenure at the Department.

House Votes To Scrap Obama’s 30-Hour Workweek

The House voted Thursday to strip Obamacare language that defines a full-time employee as anyone working 30 or more hours each week, a provision that some business advocates say is forcing companies to scale back the work time and paychecks of millions of Americans.

The Save American Workers Act passed in the chamber with a bipartisan vote of 246-179 following two days of arguments on the House floor.

“Obamacare places an unprecedented government regulation on workers, changing the definition of ‘full-time work’ from 40 hours per week to 30 hours,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-Mich.) said on Wednesday.

Seven Democrats co-sponsored the bill and were among 18 lawmakers on the left who sided with Republicans on the measure.

Other Democrats, however, argued against the measure, citing Congressional Budget Office findings that reducing full-time to 30 hours provided employer-based coverage for 1 million Americans.

“Essentially, what you are doing here today is saying to many, many people who are working hard and who need insurance that this bill will knock you off your employer-based insurance and increase the number of uninsured by half a million, while increasing the deficit by $74 billion,” Representative Sandy Levin (D-Mich.) said, blaming the bill on blind ideology.

Others said that the bill would allow companies to deny coverage to employees who worked 39 hours in a week.

“Now, they will only be forced to reduce hours from 40 to 39, as opposed to 30 to 29,” Representative Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) said. “In other words, if you work 39 hours a week, you won’t have to be covered.”

The National Retail Federation, on Wednesday, urged lawmakers to eliminate the Obamacare 30-hour week.

“NRF greatly appreciates the bipartisan support for changes to the Affordable Care Act’s definition of full-time work for benefit eligibility,” NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French wrote to lawmakers. “It is, after all, a common sense approach.”

French said that the bill would return flexibility to employers and is just one step lawmakers should take in helping to “mitigate the negative effects [the Affordable Care Act has] on the retail industry and retail employees.”

A version of the legislation is currently being worked out in the Senate by Senators Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), and Susan Collins (R-Maine).

Louisiana Cop Violates 4th Amendment And Attacks Man: ‘I’m Not Answering To You; You Can Answer To Me’

A video posted to YouTube this week provides yet another example of American law enforcement run amok. It shows a Louisiana sheriff’s deputy forcing his way into a private residence and arresting an occupant for “resisting an officer” after apparently threatening to shoot the young man in the head.

After forcing his way across the threshold of Eric Banegas’ home, the Louisiana Parish Sheriff’s deputy pushed the man’s friend, 26-year-old Donrell Breaux, across the room onto a couch.

“Look what you are doing… you’re scaring me,” Breaux said as the officer forced his way into the home.

The officer then informed the young man, “You’re under arrest.”

Banegas videoed the encounter as the officer became increasingly belligerent and refused to tell either of the men why he was arresting Breaux.

“He didn’t do anything,” Benegas told the officer after the man entered his home.

“Wait,” the obviously shocked Benegas continued. “How’re you going to arrest somebody… you didn’t, you didn’t give him no reason… about what… what are you arresting him for?”

“Get outta here,” the deputy barked. “I’m not talkin’ to you.”

“This is my house, though,” Benegas countered.

The officer went on to say something about recording before turning his attention back to Breaux, who, in terrified tones, continued to ask why the situation had so rapidly escalated.

“Sir, what is your name?” Breaux asked.

“I’m not answering to you; you can answer to me,” the deputy said as he continued to pin the young man to the couch. The officer went on to say that Breaux was under arrest for “resisting an officer.”

Benegas, likely realizing the incredible danger of facing an armed intruder whose violence is sanctioned by the State, told his friend to surrender to the officer.

“D, D just let him go,” he said.

“Son, he’s trying to take me to jail. For what?” Breaux said. “I am scared, son.”

As he continued to ask for an explanation of why he was pinned to the couch by a man who had flagrantly violated the 4th Amendment and attacked him in a private home, Breaux noticed the deputy reaching for something on his belt.

“Do not shoot me. Please don’t shoot me,” Breaux exclaimed.

At that point, the scene became chaotic and the young man’s pleas grew increasingly frantic. However, a careful listen to the audio of the fray reveals what appears to be a shocking response from the officer: “[I’ll] shoot you in the head.”

“Please, please do not shoot me. Do not shoot me, sir,” Breaux exclaimed as the officer’s radio made an audible beep. “… Oh my god, please don’t shoot me, bro.”

“It’s just a radio,” the deputy said.

“Yeah, it’s just a radio,” Breaux said. “I’m, I’m fucking scared right now. I’m scared, I’ll do whatever you ask. But why are you attacking me?”

At that point, another officer arrived on the scene with the usual “stop resisting” chorus and the video fades to black.

Breaux was taken into custody by the duo and booked into the local jail on charges of resisting arrest with violence, battery of a police officer, disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace.

In an interview with NOLA.com, the young man gave his version of events leading to the arrest.

Breaux, who has been residing at his friend’s Marmandie Avenue home since December, said that the two were on the front porch of the residence cracking jokes, which he admitted included some profane language. That’s when he said a neighbor walked over and told them to watch their language before threatening to call the police.

“He threatens to call the police all the time about stuff in the backyard and stuff going on inside the house. Things like there’s too many cars in the driveway,” Breaux told a reporter.

He said the officer, who he alleges is a friend of the neighbor, arrived about 10 minutes later.

“Then, he’s grabbing my hoodie with handcuffs out. He said, ‘Let me see some ID,’ and grabs my wrist and says, ‘You’re under arrest,’ at the same time,” Breaux said. “I thought it was unlawful.”

“I knew he was a personal friend [of the neighbor],” the man also told the reporter, “and I thought it was an unlawful arrest. I don’t have to submit to an unlawful arrest.”

Personal Liberty’s effort to contact the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office to learn the identity of the officer in the video as well as his account of events yielded no comment from officials.

Public information officer Col. John Fortunato said that the department is currently reviewing the evidence and will release a statement on the department website.

Asked if, based solely on the video evidence, there was any reason to believe that the officer involved acted inappropriately, Fortunato responded, “As I said, it’s under review.”

Meanwhile, Breaux said he is seeking an attorney to combat what he sees as an outright abuse of power.

“These are personal friends,” he told local media. “I wish I had friends that I could call and have them handle personal vendettas that I have with my neighbors.”

And though he said a lack of money is going to make it tough to find representation, Breaux believes that the video evidence gives him a pretty good case against the department.

“I’m pretty pissed about the situation,” he said. “I feel this is wrong because they do this all the time and nobody ever has it on video. I feel it’s a problem with the police and people not knowing their rights.”

Post Deadline Update

On Thursday evening, the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office issued the following statement regarding Breaux’s arrest:

Thursday, April 03, 2014 04:47 PM

This email is in response to the inquiries we received relative to a video that was posted on Facebook yesterday.

On March 30, 2014, around 2:50 PM, our 911 Center received a call from a citizen who resides in the 200 block of Marmandie Avenue in River Ridge. The complainant told the operator he needed the police because a black male subject at 207 Marmandie was cursing at him. When the Fourth District officer arrived on scene he met with the complainant who once again repeated what he told the 911 operator. He continued telling the officer that he and his wife were sitting outside of their home with their children when their attention was drawn to their neighbor’s home at 207 Marmandie. It was there, the complainant reported hearing the individuals using profanities. He also believed he could smell the odor of marijuana coming from the area where the individuals were standing. After asking the men numerous times to stop cursing in front of he and his wife, one of the men, described as a black male began directing profanity laced sentences specifically at the both he, his wife and children. He continued by saying he felt threatened at that time, thus, he chose to call 911. The complainant expressed his desire to pursue charges against the black male who cursed at he and his family. He then directed the officer to the area where the male subjects were standing.

Based on the initial findings, and the fact that the complainant/witness wanted to pursue charges on the suspect, our officer’s intention was to issue him a misdemeanor summons. As the officer approached the subjects, he too could smell the odor of marijuana. The officer requested identification from Don Rell Breaux. He was told by Breaux that he had none, however, he might have an ID inside. As the officer walked with Breaux towards the door he told him he was under arrest. As the officer followed him into the doorway with his handcuffs in hand, Breaux attempted to close the door on the officer. The officer continued into the home where a brief struggle ensued. The officer did in fact tell the suspect he was under arrest for resisting an officer, as indicated in the video. Breaux was eventually placed in handcuffs and taken into custody.

Don Rell Breaux was booked with disturbing the peace by cursing, resisting arrest and battery on a police officer.

Don Rell Breaux has a prior criminal history with an arrests for: Terroristic Threats & Acts at a school in Georgia, Reckless Conduct, Manufacturing, Distribution & Possession of Marijuana, Simple Criminal Damage to Property and a Probation Violation.

Following Tragedy, Dems Revive Gun Control Rhetoric

On Thursday, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and other top Democrats seized on Wednesday’s tragic shooting at Fort Hood in Texas to reiterate long-defeated calls for stricter gun control in the U.S.

Reid told reporters that National Guard Specialist Ivan Lopez, who killed three people and wounded 16 others at the military installation before committing suicide this week, was a perfect example of why Congress should reevaluate background checks on gun purchasers.

“I was told today this young man bought this gun a day or two before he killed those people — couldn’t we at least have background checks so people who are ill mentally or who are felons shouldn’t be allowed to buy guns?” Reid said.

Senator Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), one of the authors of the Senate’s tough gun control legislation that was defeated last April, said that he would like to see his bill revisited following the tragedy.

Manchin’s measure was defeated 54-46 when it made it to the Senate floor, and both Democrats acknowledge that the bill would still lack support if brought up for a vote today.

“I would like to be able to bring it back up. I need some more votes,” Reid said.

The White House, which made gun control a primary agenda theme last year, also weighed in on background checks Thursday with spokesman Jay Carney calling for “common sense” legislation. In an effort to avoid charges of political opportunism, however, Carney was careful not to tie his remarks to the Fort Hood tragedy.

Americans’ Personal Information Not Safe In Government Hands

A report out from the Government Accountability Office this week reveals that the Federal government’s number of “information security incidents” wherein Americans’ sensitive personal information was breached has more than doubled in recent years.

GAO reports that, for 2013, there were 25,566 breaches of personally identifiable information (PII) that citizens entrusted to the government. That’s up from 10,481 just four years earlier.

graph

“As you know, in carrying out its responsibilities the Federal government collects large quantities of PII, such as taxpayer data, census data, Social Security information, and patient health information, on American citizens and other residents of our Nation,” Gregory C. Wilshusen, director of information security issues at GAO, said during a Senate hearing on the report. “Consequently, it is critical that Federal agencies take steps to secure the information they collect, retain, and disseminate and that, when events such as data breaches occur, they respond swiftly and appropriately.”

Wilshusen told lawmakers that the government’s efforts to protect Americans’ personal information are “inconsistent” and in need of improvement.

The official said that 25 percent of the 25,566 leaks in 2013 were “non-cyber.” Nineteen percent of the incidents were due to “policy violations” by government officials, 16 percent blamed on “malicious code” and 5 percent were the result of “suspicious network activity,” according to his testimony.

A data breach can be as simple as a Federal entity mailing sensitive documents to the wrong recipient. But the GAO report also outlines several severe leaks, including instances where massive amounts of government-held personal information fell into the wrong hands.

From the report:

  • [I]n May 2006, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) reported that computer equipment containing PII on about 26.5 million veterans and active duty members of the military was stolen from the home of a VA employee.
  • In July 2013, hackers stole a variety of PII on more than 104,000 individuals from a Department of Energy system. Types of data stolen included Social Security numbers, birth dates and locations, bank account numbers and security questions and answers…
  • In May 2012, the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board (FRTIB) reported a sophisticated cyber attack on the computer of a contractor that provided services to the Thrift Savings Plan. As a result of the attack, PII associated with approximately 123,000 plan participants was accessed. According to FRTIB, the information included 43,587 individuals’ names, addresses, and Social Security numbers, and 79,614 individuals’ Social Security numbers and other PII-related information.

The agency’s report said that not only has the Federal government had trouble keeping Americans’ information secure, but has also failed to implement security controls following breaches on many occasions.

For instance, the report relays:

  • only one of seven agencies reviewed had documented both an assigned risk level and how that level was determined for PII data breaches
  • only two agencies documented the number of affected individuals for each incident
  • only two agencies notified affected individuals for all high-risk breaches
  • the seven agencies did not consistently offer credit monitoring to affected individuals
  • none of the seven agencies consistently documented lessons learned from their breach responses

The GAO report also gives insight to the preliminary findings of a forthcoming review of cybersecurity at Federal agencies (a large percentage of personal information breaches in this week’s report stemmed from cybersecurity issues).

“While these results are still subject to revision, we estimate, based on a statistical sample of cyber incidents reported in fiscal year 2012, that the 24 major federal agencies did not effectively or consistently demonstrate actions taken in response to a detected cyber incident in about 65 percent of reported incidents,” the GAO reports.

That means that Federal agencies took the proper steps to mitigate leaks of Americans’ personal data due to breaches in cyber networks in only about one third of cases.

Only time will tell what all of this means for the 7 million Americans President Barack Obama claims just forked over troves of personal information—some of whom did so on a glitch-ridden Federal website— to enroll in Obamacare.