Archives for News

As Snowden succeeds, Obama suffers setbacks

For President Barack Obama, National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden’s globe-trotting evasion of U.S. authorities has dealt a startling setback to efforts to strengthen ties with China and raised the prospect of worsening tensions with Russia. Indeed, Russia’s foreign minister on Tuesday called U.S. demands for Snowden’s extradition “ungrounded and unacceptable.” Relations with both China and Russia have been at the forefront of Obama’s foreign policy agenda this month, underscoring the intertwined interests among these uneasy partners. Obama met just last week with Russian President Vladimir Putin on the sidelines of the Group of Eight summit in Northern Ireland and
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What did the Supreme Court really say about affirmative action?

The Supreme Court’s ruling on the use of racial preferences in college admissions left many questions unanswered: Is the University of Texas‘ admissions policy that uses race as a factor constitutional? And do colleges around the country need to change how they use racial preferences to achieve a diverse student body? Those and other questions will have to wait, at least until the next time the court considers an affirmative action case. But the ruling was nonetheless significant. On the one hand, it validated earlier court rulings that racial diversity is a “compelling state interest” and that colleges may use
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Massachusetts voters picking a new senator

Massachusetts voters are heading to the polls to pick a new U.S. senator. Democratic U.S. Rep. Edward Markey and Republican Gabriel Gomez scrambled to energize supporters and mobilize get-out-the-vote efforts in the hours leading up to Tuesday’s special election to succeed John Kerry in the U.S. Senate. Both candidates made a series of campaign stops Monday, culminating with election eve rallies while their campaigns cranked up their all-important ground games designed to get as many of their voters to the polls as possible on a day when statewide turnout was expected to be light. Gomez was scheduled to vote early
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Pelosi’s defense of NSA spying draws boos

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has disappointed some of her liberal base with her defense of the Obama administration’s classified surveillance of U.S. residents’ phone and Internet records. Some of the activists attending the annual Netroots Nation political conference Saturday booed and interrupted the San Francisco Democrat when she commented on the surveillance programs carried out by the National Security Agency and revealed by a former contractor, Edward Snowden, The San Jose Mercury News reports (http://bit.ly/19fB6U4). The boos came when Pelosi said that Snowden had violated the law and that the government needed to strike a balance between security and
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Snowden in Moscow, America revokes his passport

The former National Security Agency contractor who disclosed a highly classified surveillance program has had his U.S. passport revoked, an official said Sunday. Edward Snowden’s passport was annulled before he left Hong Kong for Russia and while that could complicate his travel plans, the lack of a passport alone could not thwart his plans, the U.S. official said. If a senior official in another country or with an airline orders it, a country could overlook the withdrawn passport, the official said. The U.S. official would only discuss the passport on the condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized
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Obama muddles NSA debate with vague numbers

Seeking to win over public trust, the Obama administration has been throwing around a lot of numbers as it tries to describe — in as much detail as possible without jeopardizing national security — the terror plots it says were thwarted by the government’s sweeping surveillance of U.S. communications. There’s 50, 12, 10 and four. You also hear 20 and 90 in statements and official testimony, and even 702 and 215, though those aren’t for estimates of plots. The numbers game is just part of the effort to convince skeptical Americans that the recently disclosed National Security Agency spy programs
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Was background check on NSA leaker bungled?

A government watchdog testified Thursday there may have been problems with a security clearance background check conducted on the 29-year-old federal contractor who disclosed previously secret National Security Agency programs for collecting phone records and Internet data — just as news media disclosed more information about those programs. Appearing at a Senate hearing, Patrick McFarland, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management‘s inspector general, said USIS, the company that conducted the background investigation of former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden, is now under investigation itself. McFarland declined to say what triggered the inquiry of USIS or whether the probe is related
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Obama set to meet with privacy, civil liberties board

President Barack Obama is holding his first meeting with a privacy and civil liberties board Friday as he seeks to make good on his pledge to have a public discussion about secretive government surveillance programs. Obama has said the little-known Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board will play a key role in that effort. The federal oversight board reviews terrorism programs enacted by the executive branch to ensure that privacy concerns are taken into account. The president is also tasking the director of national intelligence, James Clapper, to consider declassifying more details about the government’s collection of U.S. phone and
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Comey picked as new director of FBI

President Barack Obama on Friday plans to nominate President George W. Bush’s former No. 2 at the Justice Department, James Comey, to lead the FBI as the agency grapples with privacy debates over a host of recently exposed investigative tactics. Comey is perhaps best known for a remarkable 2004 standoff over a no-warrant wiretapping program at the hospital bed of Attorney General John Ashcroft. Comey rushed to the side of his bedridden boss to physically stop White House officials in their attempt to get an ailing Ashcroft to reauthorize the program. If confirmed by the Senate, Comey would serve a
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Boehner caught between GOP, Dems on immigration bill

The immigration protesters advanced on the news conference, poking signs that read “Do Not Reward Criminals” and “No Amnesty!” over the heads of Republicans who had just finished speaking about finding a civilized tone in the year’s most difficult debate. As the politicians ducked out of camera range, one Hispanic pastor who had appeared with them, Becky Keenan, instead turned toward the protesters and took a photo. They began to yell at her. Keenan ignored them, quietly explaining why House Speaker John Boehner is bothering to pursue agreement on the headache that is immigration reform. “If the Republican Party wants
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