Monday, May 27, 2013

Now Obama wants to protect the press? - The president's proposed shield law wouldn't fix this problem.

If the news media were ever as smitten with Barack Obama as many conservative critics say they are, the president has been doing his best to help them get over it.
His Justice Department subpoenaed a wealth of phone records from The Associated Press in a leak investigation. The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press joined with 51 news organizations, including Tribune Co., to denounce this "overreaching dragnet" and demand "that any similar actions in the future be handled with greater consideration of the news media's First Amendment rights."
Even more alarming was the discovery that the FBI accused a Fox News reporter of committing a crime by disclosing secret information. The FBI got a search warrant that allowed it to read the private emails of reporter James Rosen, who in 2009 reported that North Korea was likely to react to a condemnatory United Nations resolution by carrying out a nuclear test. The warrant application suggested Rosen could be indicted under the Espionage Act — which is designed to catch spies and has never been used against a reporter. A Fox News executive correctly labeled the threat "downright chilling."
By getting the call records of more than 20 phone lines used by some 100 AP journalists, the government gained a vast amount of information about what the AP was doing and whom it was interviewing. That revelation must be causing a lot of reliable sources to lay awake nights wondering if they'll be caught and fired — not for jeopardizing national security but for sharing important facts that are simply embarrassing to someone in the government. The Rosen example is even worse, since it raises the possibility he'll be indicted and imprisoned.
Amid all this, the president tossed the press a bone by endorsing a proposal to shield reporters from prosecutorial inquiries. The Free Flow of Information Act, sponsored by Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., would establish new federal rules to protect journalists while obliging law enforcement to get judicial approval for these seizures. It would emulate provisions in 49 states.
Obama had come out for this sort of law as a candidate five years ago. But the bill died early in his first term after the website Wikileaks published hundreds of thousands of secret documents about the Iraq war. The climate in Washington turned against protecting leakers. Suddenly the mood is more receptive.
A federal press shield law is long overdue. It would serve to facilitate disclosures that are critical to public understanding, while assuring journalists a sphere of freedom to do their jobs.
But Obama's endorsement is no reason to celebrate. It's the equivalent of a guy sending roses to his girlfriend after he stole tulips from her garden. It doesn't undo the damage. And it wouldn't necessarily protect journalists the next time an administration gets the urge to overreach.
The bill in its 2009 version would compel prosecutors to exhaust every other possible way of getting the information before they could impose on journalists. The government's need for the items would be balanced against "the public interest in gathering news." And a judge would have to approve such requests.
In the AP case, the Los Angeles Times reported that the investigation involved a leak that compromised "an exceedingly rare and valuable espionage achievement: an informant who had earned the trust of hardened terrorists, according to U.S. officials." Attorney General Eric Holder said the leak "put the American people at risk." The department said it completed more than 550 interviews and looked at tens of thousands of documents before going after the journalists' phone records.
Given these circumstances, a court might have pre-approved this search. But it would be far better to require prosecutors to convince a federal judge of the need. Giving them complete discretion invites abuse — and threatens to shut off sources of information vital to the citizenry. Threatening to prosecute a reporter over a leak is even more dangerous, though, and this sort of statute would be no help.
Obama's Justice Department has dramatized the danger of not having a shield law, but also the danger of having an administration that forgets the role of a free press. The president is not the solution here. He's a big part of the problem.

Here’s Proof Obama’s Good For Business

Despite conservative claims otherwise, the evidence seems to be mounting that the Obama Presidency has been good for business. What’s a little less clear is if he’s boosted the rest of us.
The latest sign? President Barack Obama is just the fifth president in the 84-year history of the S&P 500 index to see it double during his term, according to The New York Times. While it’s true Obama’s ability to join this elite club may have been helped by the fact that he took office during a crisis, as the NYTimes notes, America’s stock markets have done better than those of any of the next nine largest economies since early 2009.
Indeed, stocks jumped 85 percent during Obama’s first term and the Dow Jones Industrial Average as well as the S&P 500 have both hit record highs under Obama.
In addition, corporate profits soared 171 percent during Obama’s first term, more than any other president since World War II, according to Bloomberg. Measured a few other ways: In January, corporate profits were at their highest level relative to the size of the economy since the government began keeping record and twice as high as their peak during Ronald Reagan’s administration, Bloomberg found.
Though Obama has reaped huge gains for Corporate America, his economy hasn’t been as great for us normals. We’re still in the throws of the slowest job-market recovery since World War II, with nearly 12 million Americans unemployed. In addition, wages have largely stagnated and millions of homeowners are still suffering from the housing crash, burdened by owing more money on their homes than they’re worth.

Thousands to sign protest letter against US envoy - Local News

THOUSANDS of people in Bahrain will be signing a letter to US President Barack Obama protesting at the alleged political interference of US Ambassador Thomas C Krajeski.
Sources described the move as a last ditch appeal to one of the world's most powerful leaders to have the envoy recalled immediately.
Mr Krajeski caused anger when he was spotted at the National Dialogue venue on the same day that a session was taking place.
He was seen leaving just moments before talks were due to start, but a US Embassy spokesman claimed he was there for a private meeting and did not meet dialogue participants.
It followed claims that opposition groups taking part in the dialogue were being fed advice and support by the US.
"There have been a number of incidents in which Ambassador Krajeski's conduct has been seen as prejudicial and unfair - certainly not the behaviour expected of diplomatic representatives," says the letter.
It refers to the fact that his assignment to Bahrain was met with a no-confidence vote by MPs in October 2011, based on allegations of suspicious meeting with opposition groups in the US and his work as a diplomat in Iraq.
"But in the interests of sound relations, the government chose not to take the matter further," says the letter.
"There have been monthly visits by high level US delegations, declaring public as well as private announcements of cautious approval for steps being taken by Bahrain to further improve its democratic process and foster national unity."
However, the signatories of the letter criticised a 2012 US State Department report about the human rights situation in Bahrain.
"Despite laudatory public comments, the State Department released a damning report on human rights in Bahrain, not only deemed highly offensive but in many aspects blatantly wrong," says the letter.
It states that given the fact the bulk of the information carried in the report would have been supplied by the US Embassy in Manama or vetted by Mr Krajeski, "there is now growing anger in our community the developments here are being misrepresented to the detriment of our bilateral relations."
The letter argues the ambassador's conduct has resulted in a "loss of confidence" of Bahrain citizens and was perceived as "interference in internal affairs of the country" that goes beyond the legitimate duties of diplomats, as established by international conventions.
"Under these circumstances, the ambassador has lost the confidence of Bahrain's people and has become a figure of division and mistrust to the detriment of relations," it says.
"Therefore, in the interests of continuing the warm bilateral ties which fortunately exist between our two countries, we ask for the recall of Ambassador Thomas Krajeski with immediate effect."
The letter informs President Obama that Bahrain has reached a critical stage in its history following the 2011 unrest and setting up of the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) to critically assess the events during that period.
It states that recommendations of the independent inquiry have been implemented or are in the process of being implemented.
"The various diverse groupings in our society are now engaged in an internationally respected and supported National Dialogue to find peaceful solutions to issues which have confronted our country over the past two years," says the letter.
US Embassy officials said they were unaware of the letter and declined to comment.

On US Memorial Day, Barack Obama pays tribute to fallen

ARLINGTON: President Barack Obama payed tribute on Monday to fallen men and women of the US armed services during a Memorial Day ceremony in which he reminded Americans that the country was still at war.

During a solemn visit to Arlington National Ceremony, the resting ground for many military casualties, Obama noted in remarks to visitors that next year would mark the last MemorialDay of the US war in Afghanistan.

"But even as we turn the page on a decade of conflict, even as we look forward, let us never forget, as we gather here today, that our nation is still at war," Obama said.

Unlike World War Two or the Vietnam War, conflicts that touched nearly every American, today most US citizens were not directly affected by the military conflicts overseas, the president noted.

"As we gather here today, at this very moment, more than 60,000 of our fellow Americans still serve far from home in Afghanistan," Obama said.

"They're still going out on patrol, still living in spartan forward operating bases, still risking their lives to carry out their mission. And when they give their lives, they are still being laid to rest in cemeteries in the quiet corners across our country, including here in Arlington."

Most US combat troops are slated to exit Afghanistan by the end of 2014. Obama formally ended the US war in Iraq earlier in his White House tenure.

In a major policy speech last week, Obama said the United States would shift its focus away from a "boundless global war on terror" that began under his predecessor, Republican President George W Bush.

After his remarks on Monday, Obama and his wife, first lady Michelle Obama, visited Section 60 of the cemetery, where the newly slain are buried.

"Today, just steps from where these brave Americans lie in eternal peace, we declare, as a proud and grateful nation, that their sacrifice will never be forgotten," Obama said.

"And just as we honor them, we hold their families close. Because for the parents who lose a child; for the husbands and wives who lose a partner; for the children who lose a parent, every loss is devastating. And for those of us who bear the solemn responsibility of sending these men and women into harm's way, we know the consequences all too well."

The first lady has made helping military families one of her primary causes, along with fighting childhood obesity.

During the ceremony, Michelle Obama leaned forward to watch as an Air Force singer delivered a powerful rendition of "America the Beautiful."

Earlier, the president laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, placing his hand over his heart while taps was played.

Entering and exiting the cemetery, Obama's motorcade snaked down a street lined with uniformed military members while the boom of a ceremonial canon sounded off in the background. It passed rows of white gravestones with small American flags planted beside them, along with onlookers and family members who had come to visit fallen loved ones.


Barack Obama Was High on Cocaine During “The Missing Hours” of the Benghazi Attack Last September

Yesterday, Rich Lowry at Politico wrote about “The Mystery Night” on September 11th, 2012 when the current US President disappeared for many hours and was seemingly unavailable…despite the fact that the first US Ambassador in 30 years had been murdered in the line of duty. Lowry wonders where Barack Obama disappeared to that fateful night…and why White House aide Dan Pfeiffer insists it’s “irrelevant” where Obama was in those missing hours.

If you’ve ever known anyone who is a drug addict, you’d see it’s obvious that Barack Obama was high on cocaine the night of Benghazi; it is the only logical explanation for his disappearance and the White House’s refusal to comment on what he was doing at the time. Since this was a night of great crisis for our country, the only logical reason that the White House won’t explain where the president was is if this man was high as a kite on illegal narcotics at the time.

Lowry did a great job in his article fleshing out the last time Obama was seen on September 11th of last year…and then noting when he reappeared again the next day, briefly, before jetting off to fabulous Las Vegas for a fun-and-games fundraiser event he had scheduled there (where, it also should be noted, not only Chippendales but also Thunder From Down Under male revues are regularly held…which certainly establishes the appeal of heading to Las Vegas instead of managing a national crisis back in Washington for this particular president).

According to Lowry’s timeline:
* Obama appeared sober on 9/11/12 at 5pm EST when he met with Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Martin Dempsey. I have never been able to shake the feeling that Barack Obama was woefully disappointed when he learned that Gen. Dempsey has nothing to do with either marijuana or penises in his capacity as the Chairman of the “Joint” Chiefs of “Staff”. But, I presume he would not have done cocaine before meeting with these two military men. Obama appears to have been still functional and ambulatory at 5pm that day.

* Lowry says that Obama learned of the death of US Ambassador Chris Stevens at this meeting…before Obama disappeared for many hours. These are the mystery “missing hours” that the White House refuses to talk about.

* Obama next emerged from cloister at 10pm EST 9/11/12 when he spoke with Hillary Clinton; it’s not stated if this was in person or if it was on the phone, but it sure feels like Obama was out of his mind on drugs when this happened. Clinton would never bust him on this (because she can never say a bad word about this man if she wants to secure the black vote in 2016), but even people on a late-80s-Wall-Street-grade binge of cocaine can talk on the phone for a few minutes. I’m sure when Obama was speaking to her that he imagined she’d morphed into some sort of dragon or a Hydra from Greek Mythology…because she probably read him the riot act over being on drugs when the Benghazi debacle was happening.

* Obama then went missing until the next morning. No doubt, he was still having nightmare flashbacks of Hillary Clinton screaming at him.

* Lowry then says Obama was next spotted at 1035am EST on 9/12/12 when he pretended the Benghazi attack was about some YouTube video…and then he disappeared again until he boarded his plane for fabulous Las Vegas at 220pm EST later that day.
Read more at Hill Buzz

VIDEO: Obama Visits Oklahoma, Consoles Tornado Victims

President Barack Obama flew to tornado-ravaged Oklahoma Sunday, offering moral and monetary support to people still reeling from lost lives and shattered neighborhoods. He told survivors, "You've got folks behind you" across America.


President Obama vs. his administration’s legacy

President Obama’s speech yesterday, presenting his vision of a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy, included welcome rhetoric about the importance of constitutional principles, including Due Process and rights to dissent. It may represent the high watermark for civil liberties since his inauguration five years ago.

It is disappointing, given his thoughtful words, that he ignored so many inconvenient truths. From extrajudicial assassination to free speech and freedom of the press, from the need to address root causes of terrorism to partnership with American Muslims, the president promoted important principles but papered over reality.
The reaction by Republican senators was even worse. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) foolishly suggested that “The president’s speech today will be viewed by terrorists as a victory,” and suggested doubling down on many of the same failed Bush-era policies from whichPresident Obama finally signaled long overdue independence yesterday.

Due Process: Gitmo
The president forcefully spoke about the need to close Guantánamo Bay, and also lifted his moratorium on releasing Yemeni detainees whom the government has cleared for release, despite the clamor among conservative lawmakers who prefer to indefinitely detain anyone accused of terror without trial.

Yet the president’s words reflected important principles that his own administration has routinely violated. Col. Morris D. Davis, the former chief military prosecutor at Guantánamo who resigned his position to challenge torture (and serves on the BORDC advisory board), agreed that “It’s great rhetoric. But now is the reality going to live up to the rhetoric?”

The president criticized restrictions on resettling detainees cleared for release imposed by Congress early in his administration. But he has the authority to resettle those detainees through a separate process, if he were willing to certify the release of particular individuals—which he has avoided in order to avoid the political risk.

Due Process: Drone strikes
President Obama also pledged more congressional oversight of drone strikes, responding to sustained controversy and reiterating a promise from his State of the Union address in January that he has yet to fill.
Noting the 2014 drawdown of US troops in Afghanistan, he also suggested the diminishing need for force protection. That, in turn, could lead to a reduction in “signature strikes,” untethered attacks in which the CIAessentially kills at random based on nothing more than suspicious activity and inflames anti-US sentiment. If nothing else, the president explained a preference to shift drone strikes from the unaccountable and secret CIA to the (also secret, though at least somewhat accountable) Pentagon.

Most importantly, the president acknowledged for the first time in public that civilian casualties—which he predictably downplayed—run the risk of creating new enemies.

On the one hand, he claimed that drone strikes are less lethal, and less prone to civilian casualties, than conventional warfare.

On the other hand, according to an independent study, only 5% of deaths from drone strikes were actually senior terror leaders, suggesting that what the press conveniently calls “targeted killings” are in fact essentially random. Signature strikes, in particular, reveal the rose tint in the president glasses: these are the antithesis of targeted killings, but rather knee-jerk assassinations based on mere suspicion. The CIA often doesn’t even know who it kills, let alone whether they are actually involved in terrorism.

Perhaps most revealing were the president’s comments about assassinating US citizens without trial. This particular subject sparked widespread controversy earlier this year, when Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) mounted a filibuster specifically to force the administration to resign the authority to kill Americans at home using drones.
Now, as then, the response is rhetorically welcome but substantively empty. Just as Attorney General Eric Holder’s letter to Sen. Paul made promises that ultimately appear implausible in light of the actual facts, President Obama’s assurances that drone strikes are closely targeted belies the competing fact that four US citizens have died in drone strikes, while only one was reportedly targeted. If the CIA has killed four times the number of US citizens than it has intended, how can we maintain the pretense that drone strikes avoid collateral casualties?
At root is a surprising willingness to redefine Due Process to exclude a right to judicial review. A canard—that the executive branch can provide Due Process without judicial review—pervades the drone program. But that view makes a mockery of over 800 years of legal precedent establishing the need for judges to check and balance executive detention orders. For a constitutional law professor to advance so revolutionary claim should disturb any observer, regardless of political perspective.

The First Amendment: freedom of the press
President Obama also reiterated his recent call for a reporter shield law to enable the press to do its job without interference from prosecutors. This suggestion lends itself to criticism on the grounds of both hypocrisy and insufficiency.

A reporter shield law is important, but the president’s speech ignored both his own administration’s attacks on the press (which he needed no legislation to have curtailed), as well as its vindictive, predatory, and authoritarian crackdown on government whistleblowers (like Thomas Drake, or Bradley Manning, or John Kiriakou) who have resigned their careers to inform the public about government abuses.

The First Amendment: rights to dissent, assembly, and speech
President Obama also recognized that the ham-fisted security measures for which he and his predecessor are both known run the risk of “alter[ing] our country in troubling ways,” before pledging a “proud commitment to civil liberties for all who call America home.”

As a seeming illustration, he allowed an extended (and quite thoughtful) interruption from the audience, noting that the opportunity for a citizen to challenge her president reflects the vitality of liberty in America.

But his rhetorical respect for dissent stands in sharp contrast with the actual actions of federal agencies. Recent investigations have documented a vicious crackdown on dissent executed by the FBI, in partnership with police agencies around the country, to violently suppress the Occupy and peace movements.

At the same time, the IRS was discriminatorily auditing conservative groups, as well as transpartisan constitutionalist groups, including the organization I lead, the Bill of Rights Defense Committee.

Letting a heckler interrupt a speech is no substitute for respecting the public’s rights to assembly, speech, and the press. Words are welcome, but they are far from enough.

Praising American Muslims while abusing us
President Obama’s comments regarding American Muslims were also welcome, but again, ignored the harsh reality on the ground. He reiterated that the US is not at war with Islam, praised the support of American Muslims for UScounterterrorism operations, and indeed, play a key role in winning the battle for hearts & minds abroad. He even reminded listeners that terrorism in America has been instigated by anti-government Christians more often than by Muslims.

Yet during the president’s tenure, the FBI has infiltrated mosques around the country, lied to communities—and courts—about it, recorded sexual encounters to enable blackmail, and bribed unsophisticated Muslims of all races into government-initiated plots in order to inflate both its own institutional reputation and the threat of domestic terrorism (while conspicuously ignoring real plots, like the Boston marathon bombings).

Restoring First Amendment rights—for the press, dissidents, and religious minorities—will require wide-ranging changes at the FBI that few in Washington have discussed.

Real counter-terrorism
Perhaps most remarkably, the president explained that “Force alone cannot make us safe,” before noting the overwhelming and untenable costs of war, and the greater opportunity to achieve lasting security by winning not just battlefields, but also hearts & minds.

But the president—like his predecessor—has long ignored many of those opportunities. On the one hand, he explained how building roads, schools, and hospitals can undermine terrorist recruitment, in sharp contrast to the torture and drone strikes that encourage it.

But giving weapons to dictators, protecting American textile manufactures through discriminatory tariffs, enabling terror networks to fund themselves through the black market opportunities created by the failed war on drugs, and destabilizing global food markets by encouraging domestic agricultural overproduction through corporate subsidies, all play an enormous roles in enabling terrorism. Yet none of these subjects are even discussed in these terms in Washington.

If his rhetoric matched reality, the president’s speech would have been world historical, repudiating a decade of lawlessness and restoring the best in America. And it was excellent, even if occasionally duplicitous. The question now is whether it was anything more than words, and whether the Administration will convert the president’s welcome rhetoric into long overdue action.