The National Security Agency has been secretly granted legal authority to operate a massive domestic eavesdropping system that vacuums up Americans’ phone calls and Internet communications, newly leaked documents show.
A pair of classified government documents (No. 1 and No. 2) signed by Attorney General Eric Holder and posted by the Guardian on Thursday show that NSA analysts are able to listen to Americans’ intercepted phone calls without asking a judge for a warrant first.
That appears to be at odds with what President Obama said earlier this week in defense of the NSA’s surveillance efforts. “I can say unequivocally is that if you are a U.S. person, the NSA cannot listen to your telephone calls and the NSA cannot target your e-mails,” Obama said.
The new documents indicate, however, that NSA, CIA, and FBI analysts are granted broad access to data vacuumed up by the world’s most powerful intelligence agency — but are supposed to follow certain “targeting” and “minimization” procedures to limit the number of Americans who become individual targets of warrantless surveillance.
CNET has not verified the authenticity of the documents. The Justice Department did not respond to a request for comment this afternoon.
Analysts are expected to exercise “reasonable judgment” in determining which data to use, according to the documents, and “inadvertently acquired communications of or concerning a United States person may be retained no longer than five years.” The documents also refer to “content repositories” that contain records of devices’ “previous Internet activity,” and say the NSA keeps records of Americans’ “electronic communications accounts/addresses/identifiers” in an apparent effort to avoid targeting them in future eavesdropping efforts.
In an extraordinary admission, Attorney General Eric Holder has told Congress that U.S. drone strikes since 2009 have killed four Americans — three of whom were “not specifically targeted.”
For all the effort that the Obama administration has gone to in asserting that its drones only kill the people that the administration intends to kill, Holder wrote in a letter today to Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) that Samir Khan, 16-year-old Abdulrahman Awlaki and Jude Kenan Mohammad were “not specifically targeted by the United States.” The fourth American to die in a drone strike since 2009 was Abdulrahman’s father Anwar Awlaki, a radical propagandist whom the U.S. killed in Yemen in 2011.
The five-page letter, obtained and published by Charlie Savage of The New York Times, does not explain the circumstances that led to the unintentional killings of Khan, Mohammad and the younger Awlaki. Holder does not apologize for the killings, nor explain whether their deaths resulted from errant targeting, mistaken identity or another circumstance.
But after acknowledging that the administration did “not specifically targe[t]” those three Americans, Holder defended killing Americans the administration believes to be members of al-Qaida without due process, a constitutionally questionable proposition.
U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said on Tuesday he had ordered the FBI to open a criminal probe in a growing scandal over the Internal Revenue Service’s targeting of conservative political groups for extra tax scrutiny.
Holder’s announcement came about four hours before an inspector general’s report on the IRS portrayed the tax agency as plagued by disarray and “insufficient oversight” during its struggles to review the cases of hundreds of advocacy groups that claimed they should be tax exempt.
The audit, which drew some backlash from IRS officials, also underscored what the agency had acknowledged last Friday: that the IRS had used “inappropriate criteria” for evaluating tax-exempt groups, in part by singling out scores of conservative Tea Party and “Patriot” organizations for increased scrutiny.
The report by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration sharply criticized the way the IRS had screened the conservative groups, citing poor management and processing delays. The report suggested that such practices could damage public confidence in the agency.
Good luck on the national stage with goobers like Brownback and Kobach leading the pack. There are days like this when being from Kansas is a very distinct embarrassment.
As we detailed yesterday, dozens of states are considering bills that attempt to nullify federal gun laws. One such bill became a law last month in Kansas. It exempts “Made in Kansas” guns from federal regulation and makes it a crime for federal agents to enforce federal law.
Attorney General Eric Holder recently wrote to Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, saying the law is “unconstitutional,” and that the U.S. is prepared to sue Kansas to prevent the state from “interfering with the activities of federal officials.”
Now, Brownback has fired back.
In a letter to Holder yesterday, Brownback wrote: “The people of Kansas have clearly expressed their sovereign will. It is my hope that upon further review, you will see their right to do so.”
Local news reports have highlighted an estimate from Kansas’ attorney general that defending the new law in court could cost the state $225,000 over the next three years. Attorney General Derek Schmidt did not immediately return a request for comment.
“Our office has received more than 300 emails and calls in the last two days from Kansans and Americans from around the country thanking the governor for his response,” Brownback’s spokeswoman, Sherriene Jones-Sontag, wrote in an email. She also cited the many favorable comments on the governor’s Facebook page.
Kansas’ Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped draft the new law, also released a response to Holder’s letter. “As a former professor of constitutional law, I ensured that it was drafted to withstand any legal challenge,” he wrote.
Pres. Obama and Eric Holder should mail them a letter with a giant ‘F U’ on page one.
GENEVA (Reuters) - A United Nations investigator called on the United States on Monday to publish its findings on the CIA’s Bush-era program of rendition and secret detention of terrorism suspects.
Ben Emmerson, U.N. special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights while countering terrorism, voiced concern that while President Barack Obama’s administration has rejected Central Intelligence Agency practices conducted under his predecessor George W. Bush, there have been no prosecutions.
“Despite this clear repudiation of the unlawful actions carried out by the Bush-era CIA, many of the facts remain classified, and no public official has so far been brought to justice in the United States,” Emmerson said in a report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, which he will address on Tuesday.
Emmerson, an international lawyer from Britain, has served since August 2011 in the independent post set up by the U.N. Human Rights Council in 2005 to probe human rights violations committed during counter-terrorism operations worldwide.
The “war on terror” waged by Bush after al Qaeda attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 led to “gross or systematic” violations involving secret prisons for Islamic militant suspects, clandestine transfers and torture, Emmerson said.
Under Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder said that the Department of Justice would not prosecute any official who acted in good faith and within the scope of legal guidance given by its Office of Legal Counsel in the Bush era on interrogation.
But Emmerson said that using a “superior orders defense” and invoking secrecy on national security grounds was “perpetuating impunity for the public officials implicated in these crimes”.
Interesting read since I’m already well past the he said she said deliberations of why the GOP lost large.
Now that President Obama has secured a second term, the official Washington speculation machine — and, no, that doesn’t actually exist (or does it?) — has turned to the heavy turnover expected in his Cabinet.
While only Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has made clear she plans to leave early in the Obama second term, Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner has also clearly suggested he is on his way out, and Attorney General Eric Holder has been noncommittal of late about his future plans. CIA Director David Petraeus’ stunning resignation on Friday creates another high-profile opening (although not a Cabinet-level position) for the president to fill.
While those inner Cabinet jobs will draw the lion’s share of attention, it’s likely there will be more turnover in secondary Cabinet positions too, if for no other reason than the Obama Cabinet has seen historically low levels of turnover in the first term. One example: The Commerce Department has lacked a top official since the resignation of John Bryson following a car accident in June.
A detention hearing will be held Monday for a self-described racist from Virginia who allegedly made threats against President Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder before illegally taking possession of a machine gun.
Douglas Howard Story, 48, of Manassas, Va., was arrested Wednesday by the FBI in a shopping mall parking lot, after taking delivery of a semi-automatic AK-47 assault rifle that he had paid $125 to have converted to fully automatic, officials said.
At the detention hearing in Alexandria, Va., federal prosecutors are expected to argue that Story poses either a flight risk or a danger to the public, or both, and that he be detained in custody until his federal trial in the Eastern District of Virginia. He has worked for the Virginia Department of Transportation and lived in Virginia for several years, according to court documents.
Story, who was active on several white nationalist websites including Stormfront, Vanguard News Network (VNN), and New Saxon, has a long history of vocal racism.
He made national news in April 2010 when a photo of his pickup truck, its rear window plastered with a full-color sticker featuring a photo of the Twin Towers in flames and the slogan, “Everything I ever needed to know about Islam I learned on 9/11,” went viral, and viewers noticed that his custom license plate read “14CV88.” Fourteen and 88 are potent numbers on the racist right - the first a reference to deceased terrorist David Lane’s 14-word slogan, “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for White children”; the second a code for “H.H.,” or “Heil Hitler” (H is the 8th letter in the alphabet).
House Republicans investigating the Fast and Furious scandal plan to pursue a contempt citation against Attorney General Eric Holder, senior congressional aides told CBS News.
The resolution will accuse Holder and his Justice Department of obstructing the congressional probe into the allegations that the government let thousands of weapons fall into the hands of Mexican drug cartels.
The citation would attempt to force Holder to turn over tens of thousands of pages of documents related to the probe, which has entered its second year.
For months, congressional Republicans probing ATF’s Fast and Furious “Gunwalker” scandal - led by California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa, have been investigating a contempt citation. They’ve worked quietly behind the scenes to build support among fellow Republicans, since it could ultimately face a full House vote.
CBS News has confirmed that House Speaker John Boehner, an Ohio Republican, was provided a 48-page long draft by Issa, who heads the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.
“While there are very legitimate arguments to be made in favor of such an action, no decision has been made to move forward with one by the Speaker or by House Republican leaders,” a Republican leadership aide told CBS News.
This was five days ago, but between the continuing clowncapades of the primary and the furor over the GOP war on women, you might easily have missed it.
The Department of Justice’s decision to no longer defend a discriminatory law that denies spousal benefits to veterans in legal, same-sex marriages is welcome news for veterans who simply want equal treatment under the law.
There is no justification for this statute, which treats gay and lesbian veterans and their families as second-class citizens.
The announcement was made by Attorney General Eric Holder today in a letter to Congress. The statute, Title 38 of the United States Code, defines “spouse” as a person of the opposite sex and therefore precludes the Department of Veterans Affairs from recognizing the legal marriages of same-sex couples.
Earlier this month, the SPLC and co-counsel WilmerHale filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Tracey Cooper-Harris, an Army veteran who served in both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, and her wife, Maggie Cooper-Harris.
The suit challenges the legality of Title 38 as well as Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which the Department of Justice has also declined to defend.
In the letter released today, Holder outlined the reasons for the decision to no longer defend Title 38: “The legislative record of these provisions contains no rationale for providing veterans’ benefits to opposite-sex couples of veterans but not to legally married same-sex spouses of veterans. Neither the Department of Defense nor the Department of Veterans Affairs identified any justifications for that distinction that would warrant treating these provisions differently from Section 3 of DOMA.”
The suit filed on behalf of Tracey and Maggie Cooper-Harris, filed Feb. 2 in the Central District of California, will proceed.
While the Department of Justice will not defend Title 38, Congress could nonetheless seek to intervene to defend the statute as well as Section 3 of the DOMA.
South Carolina’s controversial voter ID law will be in the spotlight today as U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder addresses a crowd of marchers honoring the life and work of the late Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. at the State House.
The state, since 2000, has commemorated the life of the civil rights leader with an NAACP-led march to the State House. This year’s King Day at the Dome, beginning with an 8:30 a.m. prayer service at Zion Baptist Church, also will feature NAACP president Benjamin Todd Jealous.
South Carolina’s passage, and the U.S. Justice Department’s subsequent rejection of, a controversial voter ID law last year has sparked a rancorous political fight and put the state on a collision course with Washington over state and federal powers.
The courts may ultimately resolve the standoff.
South Carolina’s law would require voters to show a state-issued photo identification card to be able to cast a ballot in an election.
As in several other Republican-led states, the S.C. General Assembly alleged voter fraud in passing the legislation, signed into law by Republican Gov. Nikki Haley.
South Carolina Democrats have insisted the new requirements are frivolous because voter fraud has not been a problem here.