Later On

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Archive for the ‘Obama administration’ Category

Kevin Drum looks at what Friday the 13th has wrought this time

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His post begins:

One of the benefits of being sick—oh, bollocks. There are no benefits to being sick. However, with a couple of short interludes, I slept until about 1:30 in the afternoon today, which is 4:30 for you elitist East Coasters. That means I missed the whole day. So when I finally felt well enough to reach over to the table for my tablet, I was able to take in the entire glorious panorama of 2017’s first Friday the 13th all at once. I shall now present it to you approximately as I experienced it. . .

Read the whole thing. It’s really excellent: a USA-type snapshot of one day’s events. (I’m referring to the John Dos Passos trilogy, highly recommended.)

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2017 at 8:56 pm

NSA can now share surveillance data on individuals

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The new rule allows the sharing of “raw” data—data with no privacy protection. You are totally identifiable. Charlie Savage reports in the NY Times:

n its final days, the Obama administration has expanded the power of the National Security Agency to share globally intercepted personal communications with the government’s 16 other intelligence agencies before applying privacy protections.

The new rules significantly relax longstanding limits on what the N.S.A. may do with the information gathered by its most powerful surveillance operations, which are largely unregulated by American wiretapping laws. These include collecting satellite transmissions, phone calls and emails that cross network switches abroad, and messages between people abroad that cross domestic network switches.

The change means that far more officials will be searching through raw data. Essentially, the government is reducing the risk that the N.S.A. will fail to recognize that a piece of information would be valuable to another agency, but increasing the risk that officials will see private information about innocent people.

Previously, the N.S.A. filtered information before sharing intercepted communications with another agency, like the C.I.A. or the intelligence branches of the F.B.I. and the Drug Enforcement Administration. The N.S.A.’s analysts passed on only information they deemed pertinent, screening out the identities of innocent people and irrelevant personal information.

Now, other intelligence agencies will be able to search directly through raw repositories of communications intercepted by the N.S.A. and then apply such rules for “minimizing” privacy intrusions. . .

Continue reading.

Trump will obviously have access anyway. Wonder how he will use it. He’s a vindictive man who lashes out, and this should give him some good ammunition. Is he such a person as would likely do it? Sure seems so to me.

Later:

Patrick Toomey, a lawyer for the American Civil Liberties Union, called the move an erosion of rules intended to protect the privacy of Americans when their messages are caught by the N.S.A.’s powerful global collection methods. He noted that domestic internet data was often routed or stored abroad, where it may get vacuumed up without court oversight.

“Rather than dramatically expanding government access to so much personal data, we need much stronger rules to protect the privacy of Americans,” Mr. Toomey said. “Seventeen different government agencies shouldn’t be rooting through Americans’ emails with family members, friends and colleagues, all without ever obtaining a warrant.”

The ACLU is fighting to protect your rights. Support them. (I make a monthly donation.)

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2017 at 7:58 pm

U.S. Chicago Police Routinely Trampled on Civil Rights, Justice Dept. Says

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Just last night I posted a comment on how police and the public view police actions very differently. The divergence between values and appropriate behavior in police culture in some cities is now far removed from those of the public, and Chicago offers a particularly telling example. Julie Bosman and Mitch Smith report in the NY Times:

The Chicago police have systemically violated the civil rights of residents by routinely using excessive force, a practice that particularly affects African-Americans and Latinos, the Justice Department said in a scathing report released on Friday, unveiling the findings of a 13-month investigation into the city’s police department.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch also announced at the federal courthouse in downtown Chicago detailed steps the city had committed to take to remedy the problems.

“The systems and policies that fail ordinary citizens also fail the vast majority of Chicago Police Department officers who risk their lives every day to serve and protect the people of Chicago,” said Ms. Lynch, who had raced to complete the investigation before the end of President Obama’s term.

“With this announcement, we are laying the groundwork for the difficult but necessary work of building a stronger, safer, and more united Chicago for all who call it home,” Ms. Lynch said.

Justice Department investigations can be powerful tools for overhauls of the police, and the Obama administration has made expansive use of them amid a wrenching national debate over race and policing. Chicago is among nearly two dozen cities — including Baltimore; Ferguson, Mo.; Seattle; and Cleveland — where the Justice Department has pushed for wholesale changes in policing.

By negotiating an agreement with Chicago to fix the problems, the Justice Department has laid the groundwork for change regardless of what happens under President Donald J. Trump. Mr. Trump’s attorney general nominee, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, has said he believes that many of the police department overhauls sought by the Obama administration went too far and unfairly maligned officers. He also has spoken against the court-enforced settlements, known as consent decrees, that usually result from investigations like the one in Chicago.

With the statement announced on Friday, the Justice Department has put the city’s problems on the record and set in motion a process — albeit one that may be less easy to enforce — for change, even if the Trump administration does not seek a consent decree with Chicago.

Ms. Lynch said the report set in motion a process that would go forward “regardless of who sits atop the Justice Department,” a statement echoed by Mayor Emanuel, who added that was city was committed to reaching an consent agreement.

Chicago’s announcement came only a day after the Justice Department and city leaders in Baltimore announced an agreement that called for greater oversight of the police department there, as well as improved training and safety technology. The consent decree came in the wake of the death of Freddie Gray, 25, who died of a spinal cord injury in 2015 while in the custody of the Baltimore police.

Chicago officials have been bracing for the findings from the Justice Department after more than a year of tense public debate about the police and its long, troubled history of community relations, particularly with African-American and Latino residents. Announced in December 2015, the investigation came in a year of cascading violence for the city. Shootings and murders rose significantly. In 2016, there were 762 homicides in Chicago, more than New York City and Los Angeles combined and more than this city has experienced in 20 years.

The inquiry was spurred by the city’s reluctant release of a chilling video that showed a white police officer shooting a young black man, Laquan McDonald, 16 times. For months, the city had fought to keep the dashboard camera footage from being made public, but a judge ultimately ordered its released. Residents were outraged by the images, some marching in protest and demanding that Mr. Emanuel resign.

Long before the Justice Department’s findings, the critiques of the Chicago police were stark. Two years ago, the city announced reparations and an apology to black men who had for years said they were tortured and abused at the hands of a “Midnight Crew” of officers overseen by a notorious police commander in the 1970s and 1980s. Last year, a task force appointed by Mr. Emanuel issued a blistering report that concluded that racism had contributed to a long pattern of institutional failures by the police.

“C.P.D.’s own data gives validity to the widely held belief the police have no regard for the sanctity of life when it comes to people of color,” the task force wrote. “Stopped without justification, verbally and physically abused, and in some instances arrested, and then detained without counsel — that is what we heard about over and over again.”

As Chicago awaited the Justice Department’s announcement, city officials . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

13 January 2017 at 11:09 am

White House to End Exemption for Cubans Who Arrive Without Visas

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I don’t see how conservatives, with their anti-immigration fervor, can do anything but applaud this, but seeing as how it’s Obama doing it, I feel sure they will express outrage.

The story in the NY Times is by Julie Hirshfield Davis:

The Obama administration on Thursday will terminate the so-called wet foot, dry foot policy that allows Cubans who arrive on United States soil without visas to remain in the country and gain legal residency, a senior administration official said, in an unexpected move long sought by the Cuban government.

The action, first reported by The Associated Press, will come through a new Department of Homeland Security regulation and an agreement with the Cuban government. Details of the decision were disclosed on the condition of anonymity to avoid pre-empting a formal announcement expected later Thursday.

The Obama administration had long insisted it was not planning to change the policy after President Obama’s move in 2014 toward normalized relations with Cuba. But the thaw prompted speculation that once diplomatic relations resumed, as they did in 2015, the arrangement would end.

Under the current policy, Cubans detained at sea who are trying to reach the United States must return to their country, but those who make it onto American soil are allowed to stay and eventually apply for legal permanent residency. The unusual arrangement has been unique to Cuban refugees. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2017 at 3:03 pm

Infographic: Before and After Obama

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A very interesting infographic from Philly.com via TYD. Just part of the image:

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Written by LeisureGuy

12 January 2017 at 9:44 am

Financial Crash Analysis: $22.6 Billion in Homeowner Relief; $7.8 Trillion to Four Wall Street Banks

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Pam Martens and Russ Martens report in Wall Street on Parade:

As Goldman Sachs guys prepare to take the reins of power in Washington under the Trump administration, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) provided a tragic reminder on Monday regarding the power of the U.S. citizen versus their Wall Street overlords. The GAO released a study showing that as of October 31, 2016, the government “had disbursed $22.6 billion (60 percent) of the $37.51 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) funds” that were directed at helping distressed homeowners as a result of the 2008 Wall Street financial crash and the resulting housing bust.

Those paltry billions stand in stark contrast to the $7.8 trillion in near-zero interest loans that the Federal Reserve secretly funneled to just four Wall Street banks from 2007 to 2010. The Fed funneled $2.5 trillion to Citigroup; $2 trillion to Morgan Stanley; $1.9 trillion to Merrill Lynch; and $1.3 trillion to Bank of America. The total amount that the Fed secretly loaned to both U.S. and foreign banks came to $16.1 trillion. (See the chart below from the 2011 GAO report for the full list of bailed out banks.)

The American people would still be in the dark about the Federal Reserve’s covert money spigot to the banks except for Senator Bernie Sanders. In 2010, as Congress was debating the Dodd-Frank financial reform legislation, Sanders introduced an amendment that would force the GAO to conduct a one-time audit of the Fed covering its emergency lending programs from December 1, 2007 through July 21, 2010, the date the legislation was signed into law by President Obama. (Because of this abbreviated period of time, the public may still lack full details about Wall Street’s bailout. Sanders got pushback from the White House that prevented him from pushing for a stronger amendment.)

When the one-time audit of the Fed was released by the GAO in 2011, Sanders said in a statement: “This is a clear case of socialism for the rich and rugged, you’re-on-your-own individualism for everyone else.”

Today, Goldman Sachs is the most politically-connected Wall Street bank in America thanks to appointments by Donald Trump. But back in 2008 when the Fed was pumping out trillions of dollars to banks like penny candy at a carnival, it was Citigroup that held the reins of power. (The full extent of that power was underscored last year when WikiLeaks released emails showing that one of Citigroup’s executives, Michael Froman, has played the key role in selecting cabinet officials for Obama’s administration.) The current U.S. Treasury Secretary, Jack Lew, is a former Citigroup executive as is Stanley Fischer, the Vice Chair of the Federal Reserve. Michael Froman is the current U.S. Trade Representative who’s responsible for the deeply flawed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Obama’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, ranked Citigroup as one of her top lifetime political donors. . . .

Continue reading. There’s an interesting chart at the link.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2017 at 10:27 am

Perhaps Congress should seriously investigate the hack issue

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Sam Biddle writes at The Intercept:

After President Obama and Donald Trump were briefed on a classified report explaining the United States Intelligence Community’s belief that Russia hacked the Democratic Party, the public has received its own, declassified version. Unfortunately for us, it appears virtually anything new and interesting was removed in the redaction process, leaving us without the conclusive, technical evidence we were hoping for — and that the American people are owed. Failing a last minute change of heart, the next best (and perhaps last) hope for the government to show us its work would be a formal, bipartisan probe.

The immensely confident report, based on the combined findings of the NSA, CIA, and FBI, includes virtually no new details about why the nation’s intelligence agencies attributed the attacks to the Russian government (and in some cases, directly to Vladimir Putin), other than a reference to the involvement of the “Guccifer 2.0″ hacker persona, a fact they had been open about since the hacked documents first started spreading. Instead, we’re left with this, which does not move the evidentiary ball forward even an inch:

We assess with high confidence that Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered an influence campaign in 2016 aimed at the US presidential election, the consistent goals of which were to undermine public faith in the US democratic process, denigrate Secretary Clinton, and harm her electability and potential presidency. We further assess Putin and the Russian Government developed a clear preference for President-elect Trump.

We don’t even get an allusion to NSA SIGINT, or a brief reference to the existence of more evidence — the report is all confidence, no justification. That confidence and consensus has meaning on its own — and, certainly, the claims are serious — but it is no substitute for some public understanding of what caused that confidence.

When it comes to the assessment that “Putin and the Russian Government aspired to help President-elect Trump’s election chances when possible by discrediting Secretary Clinton and publicly contrasting her unfavorably to him,” all three agencies are in agreement, though the NSA believes it with only a “moderate” level of confidence. For this and a thousand other reasons, it would be tremendously helpful to know what led them to these conclusions, the severity of which will likely shape U.S.-Russian relations for decades. Presumably, the classified version presented to the the president, president-elect, and certain members of Congress, would include at least some of the technical material behind the claims. But we can’t see that version, the report explains: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

6 January 2017 at 5:46 pm

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