Carney Backtracks After Congress Refutes Presidential Claim: Not All Lawmakers Briefed On Spy Programs

Last week, President Barack Obama attempted to soften the impact of revelations that the National Security Agency is spying on Americans by collecting massive amounts of metadata from private communications companies by claiming that every member of Congress knew it was going on.

“Now, the programs that have been discussed over the last couple days in the press are secret in the sense that they’re classified, but they’re not secret in the sense that when it comes to telephone calls, every member of Congress has been briefed on this program,” Obama said.

Members of Congress promptly refuted the President’s claim.

There was Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), who said of the NSA spying, “I had no idea.”

And Representative Tim Griffen (R-Ark.) said the President was mistaken via Twitter.

POLITICO, following Obama’s claim, published a piece revealing that several other lawmakers — the list continues to grow — have publicly said they were never briefed about the NSA spying. A list of those lawmakers includes: Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah), Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Representative Billy Long (R-La.).

Public announcements from lawmakers that they were not indeed briefed on the spying programs elicited a response from the Obama Administration on Monday: Oh, yeah; many rank-and-file lawmakers were actually not briefed, but they probably could have dug up the classified information if they had really tried to.

Or if you prefer, here’s White House Press Secretary Jay Carney’s version of the backtrack:

 

And, to save face, all House members will reportedly be briefed on the government’s spy tactics on Tuesday.

At Least They Haven’t Figured Out How To Tax Sunlight… Yet: Tanning Bed Tax Now A Permanent Fixture

House Speaker John Boehner, “Tanning Mom,” bodybuilders and teenage girls throughout the Nation, be advised: The “temporary” tax levied against indoor tanning services in 2010 as a part of Obamacare will be made permanent on Tuesday.

The tax — which until now was considered temporary while the Internal Revenue Service “collected feedback” on how it should be applied — was designed to help offset Obamacare costs. Proponents of the measure estimated that it would raise $2.7 billion in revenue to help soften the economic impact of the President’s healthcare overhaul.

“After considering the written comments and comments made at the public hearing, the proposed regulations are adopted as final regulations by this Treasury decision and the corresponding temporary regulations are removed,” says a notice to be filed in the Federal Register.

Lawmakers opposed to the measure have argued that the 10 percent tanning tax unfairly penalizes 18,000 American small-business owners offering tanning services, but efforts to repeal the measure have been unsuccessful.

RINO McCain: Boston Bombing Is Proof, The Battlefield Is Here, Spying Is Good, Paul Is Wrong

Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) continued what is seemingly an unending mission to discredit any member of the GOP more conservative than himself — a very low threshold by most accounts — on Sunday, saying that his least favorite wackobird, Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.), has lost his credibility in fighting global terrorism.

On CNN’s “State of the Union,” McCain made the case that overreaching government surveillance in the vein of the National Security Agency’s PRISM initiative is not “necessarily wrong” because it operates under court oversight. That’s contrary to Paul’s continuing claims that the government’s spy program is an “extraordinary invasion of privacy.”

“Just prior to the Boston bombing, he said the battlefield was no longer in America,” McCain told CNN host Candy Crowley of Paul’s position.

The elder Senator was referring to remarks Paul made in April.

“It’s different overseas than it will be here,” Paul said two months ago. “Which gets precisely to the argument I have with some other Republicans who say, ‘Well, the battlefield is everywhere, there is no limitation.’ President Obama says this. Some members of my party say the battle has no geographic limitations and the laws of war apply. It’s important to know that the law of war that they’re talking about means no due process.”

Justice Goes On Prowl For NSA Leaker; Zimmerman Trial Underway; Obama Only Wants To Kill Some Business; Another Obama Scandal; And More: Monday Morning News Roundup 6-10-2013

Here is a collection of some of the stories that Personal Liberty staffers will be keeping an eye on throughout the day. Click the links for the full stories.

  • Justice Department officials said Sunday that the agency is conducting a criminal investigation into the leak of classified information detailing the National Security Agency’s phone and Internet surveillance programs.
  • Edward Snowden — the man claiming responsibility for a series of sensational leaks about U.S. spying programs — was revealed to have been holed up in a luxury hotel in Hong Kong.
  • Lawyers in the George Zimmerman trial today will begin the process of selecting a 12-member jury in the case of the shooting of Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.
  • President Barack Obama says Democrats “don’t want to tax all businesses out of business.”

Check back for updates, news and analysis throughout the day. Like us on Facebook. And follow our improved Twitter feed.

Research: For Post-Traumatic Stress Relief, Stretching And Meditation Work

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a condition that is increasingly being diagnosed by physicians throughout the Nation. With more cases of PTSD cropping up, more research of the condition is being conducted—and a recently published study indicates PTSD sufferers can benefit from alternative therapies.

More than 7 million adults are diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in a typical year in the U.S. The mental health condition, triggered by a traumatic event, can cause flashbacks, anxiety and other symptoms.

Credit: PHOTOS.COM

A recent study accepted for publication in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism (JCEM), suggests that those who are afflicted by PTSD can benefit from stretching and meditation.

“Mind-body exercise offers a low-cost approach that could be used as a complement to traditional psychotherapy or drug treatments,” said the study’s lead author, Sang H. Kim, PhD, of the National Institutes of Health. “These self-directed practices give PTSD patients control over their own treatment and have few side effects.”

The study found  that PTSD patients’ high levels of corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) and unusually low levels of cortisol – two hormones used to regulate the body’s response to stress— responded favorably in subjects who participated in mind-body exercises for an eight week-period.

After mind-body exercises, patient cortisol levels in the blood rose 67 percent and PTSD checklist scores decreased by 41 percent, indicating the individuals were displaying fewer PTSD symptoms. In comparison, patients who did not do mind-body exercises had a nearly 4 percent decline in checklist scores and a 17 percent increase in blood cortisol levels during the same period.

“Participants in the mind-body intervention reported that not only did the mind-body exercises reduce the impact of stress on their daily lives, but they also slept better, felt calmer and were motivated to resume hobbies and other enjoyable activities they had dropped,” Kim said. “This is a promising PTSD intervention worthy of further study to determine its long-term effects.”

Hacker Could Face More Time Than Rapers

What’s worse than a rapist? In the eyes of the Federal Government, so called hacktivists are pretty high on the list.

When he read news of the teenage girl who was raped by her classmates after getting drunk at a Steubenville, Ohio, party, the 26-year-old hacker, known as KYAnonymous, whose real name is Deric Lostutter, decided to publicize tweets and Instagram photos he obtained online in which members of the Steubenville High School football team joked about two of their teammates raping a girl.

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His actions brought the rape case to national attention and made the local officials and townspeople in Steubenville, who seemed to blame the victim more than her attackers for the incident, look pretty ridiculous.

The information Lostutter provided was also used by other hackers to deface a Steubenville football team website, where they posted tweets and Instagram photos from the rapists and their friends the night of the incident.

For raping their classmate Ma’Lik Richmond, 16, and Trent Mays, 17, were sentenced in March to at least one year in a juvenile facility for the assault.

For his actions, however, Lostutter was raided by FBI agents at his Kentucky home in April and is being investigated by the government for hacking-related crimes. If charged, he would face 10 years behind bars.

The Anonymous affiliate explains on his blog:

Approximately  Mid-April 2012 a search warrant was carried out on my address in Winchester, Kentucky for alleged communications with one “Noah Mchugh” aka @justbatcat regarding the hacking of http://www.rollredroll.com and my alleged involvement in said hacking. Upon returning from a brief turkey hunt behind my farm I had just sat down and opened up my computer to work when my pitbull, named Thor, jumps up on the door as is common for him to do when someone new is at my house. I had been expecting a T-Shirt in the mail from ShieldTactical.com and what appeared to be a Fed-Ex truck was parked in my driveway.  As I open the door to great the driver approximately 12 F.B.I. Swat Team agents jumped out of the truck screaming for me to “Get The Fuck Down” with m-16 assault rifles and full riot gear armed safety off, pointed directly at my head. I was handcuffed and detained outside while they cleared my house. My brother soon emerged later with his new girlfriend, both bewildered that the F.B.I. was at my house seeing as I have no prior criminal history, both of them in handcuffs as well. The Swat team left my belongings in the floor, my dogs shocked, my family nervous, my garage door battered open with a ram though I stated I had a key, and the RV camper window broken for entry though I stated to pull hard on the door.

Looking around I seen the Swat Team of course, a few fbi detectives from Columbus Ohio, Lexington KY, and Louisville KY. Also with them were a state trooper or 2, a local sheriff, and shortly thereafter the buildings were cleared the CIS labcoat wearing “Geek Squad” so to speak who analyzes your “evidence”.

I was detained on the back patio, I asked if I was going to jail, they said no, they said who are you, I responded KYAnonymous. They asked me a few questions, asked me for my passwords for my account, stated that I could not tell anyone I was raided or I would face additional charges such as “destroying/tampering with evidence”. They pulled out ALLEGED emails between me and @justbatcat aka Noah McHugh from Noah’s inbox indicating that someone is trying to “sell me down the river”. They stated they had been watching me for a long time, prior to Jim Parks, and that I was a good guy, and even joked around a bit about the good things I have done, none the less, sincere or not, They are the FBI and to them I am Anonymous, the embodiment of a dangerous threat according to their m16 assault rifles aimed at me for a computer.

Lostutter is being represented by the Whistleblower Defense League, which we profiled here.

Obama: Trust The Government

During a speech Friday President Barack Obama attempted to justify the government’s massive collection of American phone records. His message: Trust us, we’re from the government.

“If people can’t trust not only the executive branch but also don’t trust Congress, and don’t trust federal judges, to make sure that we’re abiding by the Constitution with due process and rule of law, then we’re going to have some problems here,” Obama declared.

And the people behind the programs cherish our Constitution,” according to the President.

“The last thing they’d be doing is taking programs like this to listen to someone’s phone calls,” he said.

The takeaway for American citizens who are concerned: You’re just being an alarmist.

“You can shout Big Brother or program run amok, but if you actually look at the details, I think we’ve struck the right balance,” he added.

HT: The Examiner

New York Lawmaker Wants It To Be A Felony To ‘Annoy’ A Cop

The New York State Senate has passed a bill that would make it illegal for people in the State to “annoy” police officers; critics believe the bill, if passed by the State’s other legislative body, will enable police to abuse their power.

The bill, sponsored by Republican State Senator Joe Griffo, would make it a felony offense to “harass, annoy, or threaten a police officer while on duty.”

“Our system of laws is established to protect the foundations of our society,” Griffo said. “Police officers who risk their lives every day in our cities and on our highways deserve every possible protection, and those who treat them with disrespect, harass them and create situations that can lead to injuries deserve to pay a price for their actions.”

The lawmaker believes “too many people in our society have lost the respect they need to have for a police officer.”

The bill does state that in order for the harassment charge to be levied, a police officer would have to feel physically threatened by his heckler.

From the bill:

bill

Police officers in the State have lauded the bill.

“Professionally, I am grateful to see this bill pass through the Senate. Our police officers have a very dangerous job and need the support of our government leaders to help make them safe,” said Utica Police Department Chief Mark Williams. “All too often persons are physically challenging police officers in the line of duty. Currently in those instances where an officer is physically attack (short of sustaining a physical injury) the lawful charge is only a violation.”

While the physical threat aspect of the bill seems clear, many people have cited police incidents in which officers manufactured a threat in order to use heavy handed tactics. One recent example is that of the encounter a hearing-impaired Washington woman had with police when she was pulled over for allegedly using her cell phone while driving. When her disability kept her from hearing an officer’s orders and she jerked away when he grabbed her wrist, another cop promptly delivered a hefty beat down while shouting “Stop resisting!”, a phrase officers seem to love in those sorts of situations.

Perhaps in New York, cops will soon have a new phrase to shout as they bludgeon residents: Stop annoying me!

DHS Report Justifies Warrantless, Suspicionless Searches Of Electronics Near Borders

The Department of Homeland Security has released a long-awaited 2011 assessment of the civil liberties impact of its policy of conducting suspicionless searches of electronic devices at the border in response to a Freedom of Information Act request from the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU calls the results of the DHS assessment “disappointing” for civil liberties advocates.

Credit: PHOTOS.COM

In the redacted Civil Rights/Civil Liberties Impact  Assessment, the government explains why it believes requiring officers to have probable cause to search electronic devices such as cell phones and computers at the border would make America less safe:

[A]dding a heightened [suspicion-based] threshold requirement could be operationally harmful without concomitant civil rights/civil liberties benefit. First, commonplace decisions to search electronic devices might be opened to litigation challenging the reasons for the search. In addition to interfering with a carefully constructed border security system, the litigation could directly undermine national security by requiring the government to produce sensitive investigative and national security information to justify some of the most critical searches. Even a policy change entirely unenforceable by courts might be problematic; we have been presented with some noteworthy CBP and ICE success stories based on hard-to-articulate intuitions or hunches based on officer experience and judgment. Under a reasonable suspicion requirement, officers might hesitate to search an individual’s device without the presence of articulable factors capable of being formally defended, despite having an intuition or hunch based on experience that justified a search.

ACLU attorney Brian Hauss said that the government’s reasoning completely undermines Constitutional rights and is baseless for many reasons.

“Although DHS might fear the prospect of being called into open court to explain its actions, executive accountability before the law is the bedrock on which our system of constitutional self-government is built,” Hauss said.

Furthermore, the ACLU attorney contends that the Federal government’s fear of court challenges leading to national security leaks is moot: “This line of thought is faulty for a few reasons. DHS claims that giving Americans the opportunity to challenge laptop searches in court would lead to the divulgence of national security secrets, but this is obviously wrong. The government has numerous resources at its disposal to prevent the disclosure of sensitive information. The ‘state secrets privilege,’ to take just one example that is used in court cases, has been criticized on many grounds, but no one has ever seriously suggested that its protections are too anemic.”

While even the most ardent civil liberties advocates understand that security threats at the Nation’s borders sometimes require lower thresholds for 4th Amendment protections; but the Federal government makes it seem as if the Nation’s borders should be treated as a Constitution-free zone. Nearly 190 million citizens live within what the ACLU has previously dubbed “Constitution-free Zones” near the country’s borders.