NSA Data Mining

NSA collection of phone data is lawful, federal judge rules

NSA Logo

Of course this Federal Judge is not the final arbiter of this matter but it does put a bit of a damper in Snowden’s “I was right…I’m exonerated” meme.  Thoughts?

Washington Post

A federal judge in New York ruled Friday that the massive collection of domestic telephone data brought to light by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden is lawful, rejecting a challenge to the program by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The decision conflicts with that of a U.S. District Court judge who ruled against the government early last week, finding that the NSA’s program was almost certainly unconstitutional. The divergent decisions make it more likely that the Supreme Court will make its own ruling.

In a 53-page opinion, U.S. District Judge William Pauley said Friday the legality of the program, which collects virtually all Americans’ phone records, is “ultimately a question of reasonableness,” under the Fourth Amendment and represents the U.S. government’s “counter-punch” to eliminate the al-Qaeda terrorist network.

Pauley said that if the U.S. government had the phone data collection program before the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, it could have helped provide critical clues. He said that so-called telephone metadata might have permitted the NSA to notify the FBI that one of the terrorists was calling a Yemeni safe house from inside the United States.

“The government learned from its mistake and adapted to confront a new enemy: a terror network capable of orchestrating attacks across the world,” Pauley wrote. “It launched a number of counter-measures, including a bulk telephony metadata collection program — a wide net that could find and isolate gossamer contacts among suspected terrorists in an ocean of seemingly disconnected data.”

Justice Department spokesman Peter Carr said the government is “pleased the court found the NSA’s bulk telephony metadata collection program to be lawful.”

In a statement, the ACLU said it intended to appeal the case.

“We are extremely disappointed with this decision, which misinterprets the relevant statutes, understates the privacy implications of the government’s surveillance and misapplies a narrow and outdated precedent to read away core constitutional protections,” said Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU deputy legal director.

Pauley’s opinion comes 11 days after a federal judge in Washington ruled that the NSA’s collection of bulk telephony metadata is based on “almost-Orwellian technology.”In that opinion, U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon granted a request for an injunction that blocked the collection of the phone data of conservative legal activist Larry Klayman and a co-plaintiff. Leon stayed his ruling to give the government time to appeal.

As the issue plays out in the courts, Congress is debating whether the NSA’s sweeping collection of phone data should be curtailed. A panel appointed by President Obama recommended this month the NSA should no longer store the data.

GOP Myopia · September 11th

GOP Official Stands By 9/11 Tweet Accusing Obama of al-Qaeda Alliance

We’re still calling out the crazies…


Some chose to honor the twelfth anniversary of the September 11 attacks with a moment of silence, others through solemn speeches.

Tennessee Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey, on the other hand, had this to tweet:

As one can imagine, criticism was swift, both from the Twitterverse and from Ramsey’s political opponents:

Even fictional characters called him out on it:

Ramsey did not back down, however, reaffirming his comment in a statement to the press on Thursday:

“Every September 11 since that tragic Tuesday in 2001 has been a day of remembrance. We remember those who died, those who served and those who carry on. But we must also remember those who attacked us and why. The Syrian rebel’s connections to Al-Qaeda are well-established and well-known. I am proud to stand with leaders like Senator Ted Cruz and Senator Rand Paul against coming to the aid of our enemies, enemies who continue to hate our country from afar as they kill Christians in their own country.”

By the by, if you must tweet about 9/11, here’s how you do it.

U.S. Politics

10 things you need to know today: September 11, 2013

Protesters gather in front of the White House before President Obama’s speech on Syria Tuesday evening.

The Week

Obama delays strikes against Syria, Colorado voters oust two Democrats over gun control, and more

1. Obama delays military action against Syria to focus on diplomacy
President Obama said Tuesday that he would hold off on military strikes against Syria and pursue a Russian plan to take over the country’s chemical weapons. Obama, facing stiff opposition to military action, said he had asked Congress to delay a vote on authorizing force, but that if the Syrian regime fails to surrender its chemical arsenal the U.S. must retaliate to protect “our ideals and principles, as well as our national security.” [New York TimesWashington Post]

2. Colorado lawmakers lose recall votes over gun control
Colorado voters ousted two Democratic state senators on Tuesday, including state Senate President John Morse, over their support for tougher gun laws. The recall races — the first in state history — marked ashowdown in the national debate over gun control after several mass shootings, drawing big campaign contributions from the National Rifle Association and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, founder of Mayors Against Illegal Guns. [Reuters]

3. De Blasio tops the Democratic field in NYC’s mayoral primary
Bill de Blasio finished first in New York’s Democratic mayoral primary on Tuesday after tapping into anger at rising income inequality and aggressive policing under outgoing Mayor Michael Bloomberg. It might take days to determine whether de Blasio, the city’s public advocate, won the 40 percent of the vote needed to avoid a run-off against his nearest rival, former city comptroller Bill Thompson. As expected, Joseph Lhota won the GOP primary. [New York Times]

4. Explosion shakes Benghazi street on anniversary of attacks
A powerful blast damaged a Libyan Foreign Ministry building and a bank branch in Benghazi early Wednesday. The explosion came on the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and the 2012 assault on U.S. diplomatic compounds in Benghazi that killed ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans. The U.S. recently moved 250 Marines to a base in Italy so they could reach Libya quickly in case of trouble on the anniversary. [CNN]

5. Apple suppliers’ shares sink after unveiling of new iPhones
Shares of Apple and its suppliers slumped early Wednesday, a day after the company unveiled a faster iPhone, and a cheaper one. Apple shares fell 2.3 percent overnight. Lens maker Largan dropped by 6.4 percent, while mini-speaker supplier ACC Technologies fell 4.7 percent in Hong Kong. Analysts said the lower-cost iPhone 5C, at $549 with no contract, was still too expensive to compete in the low-end market in emerging markets like China. [CNBC]

6. Spitzer loses his bid for political redemption
Eliot Spitzer, who resigned as New York’s governor after a 2008 prostitution scandal, came up short in his effort to return to public office, losing the Democratic primary for New York City comptroller to Scott Stringer on Tuesday. With the count nearly complete, Stringer led 52.1 percent to 47.9 percent. In another failed redemption bid, sexting-scandal-plagued Anthony Weiner finished fifth in the city’s Democratic mayoral primary. [New York TimesUSA Today]

7. Americans mark 9/11 anniversary with tributes to victims
Sept. 11 victims’ relatives gathered at Ground Zero in New York City early Wednesday to begin a day of ceremonies to commemorate the 12th anniversary of the terrorist attacks. At the 2-year-old memorial plaza, the victims’ loved ones will participate in the now-traditional reading of the names of the nearly 3,000 people killed when hijacked jets crashed into the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and a field near Shanksville, Pa. [Associated Press]

8. Documents indicate the NSA tracked phone numbers not linked to terrorism
National Security Agency personnel searched call tracking data on thousands of phone numbers that had not been properly vetted, according to previously secret documents released on Tuesday. The NSA also falsely certified to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that it was complying with a court order to only conduct searches on numbers linked to suspected terrorists. The unauthorized searches lasted three years and were halted in 2009. [Politico]

9. U.S. men’s soccer team clinches berth in the 2014 World Cup
The U.S. men’s soccer team defeated Mexico on Tuesday night to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil. The 2-0 victory alone wasn’t enough to secure the U.S. team its seventh straight World Cup berth. The clincher came when Honduras and Panama tied, ensuring that the U.S., which still has two qualifying matches left, would be among the top three teams in its six-team qualifying group. [USA Today]

10. Miley Cyrus’ “Wrecking Ball” video sets a record
Miley Cyrus, fresh off her controversial televised twerking display, shattered the record for most-viewed new music video on Tuesday. Her “Wrecking Ball” video, in which she swings naked on a wrecking ball, got 19 millions on Vevo in the first 24 hours after its Monday release. The previous mark, set in July by British boy band One Direction for their single “Best Song Ever,” was just 10.9 million views. [CBS News]

World Trade Center

World Trade Center, Built With Union Labor, Is Now America’s Tallest Building

Think Progress

One World Trade Center, which will replace the World Trade Center towers that fell in the September 11 terrorist attacks, became the tallest building in the United States this morning when workers hoisted a 408-foot spire atop it. At 1,776 feet tall, the building is now the tallest in the United States and the third-tallest in the world.

And, as American Rights at Work noted when it became the tallest building in New York, it was built with union labor:

It’s fitting: union members were among the first responders; union members served in the immediate cleanup; and now union members are part of the rebuilding.

Anti-union legislation has made its way across America in recent years, from Michigan to Indiana to Wisconsin. But unions were instrumental in building America’s middle class, in responding to the attacks on 9/11, and now, in rebuilding the World Trade Center in the decade since the attacks.

“It’s a pretty awesome feeling,” project manager Juan Estevez told the Associated Press. “It’s a culmination of a tremendous amount of team work … rebuilding the New York City skyline once again.”

Boston Marathon 2013 · Marathon Bombing

Who’s behind the Boston Marathon bombings? 4 theories

The Week

More than half a day after the explosions in Boston, police still have few answers. That hasn’t quieted the speculation

Law enforcement officials don’t have any official suspects in Monday’s twin bombings at the finish line of the Boston marathon. And President Obama specifically urged people not to speculate on who’s behind the attack, which killed at least three people, including an 8-year-old boy, and wounded more than 100 others, including several amputations.

“We still don’t know who did this or why,” Obama said Monday night. “People should not jump to conclusions before we have all the facts. But make no mistake. We will get to the bottom of this. We will find out who did this. We will find out why they did this. Any individual or responsible groups will feel the full weight of justice.”

Of course, plenty of people are speeding by the president’s advice and jumping to conclusions, or at least jumping to theories. “We all wonder first who did this,” says Michael Tomasky at The Daily Beast. And, Tomasky says, a little careful speculation isn’t such a bad thing. Here are four groups that are the focus of early (and — let us be clear — sometimes baseless) finger-pointing in the Boston attack:

1. Islamist jihadists
This theory was inevitable in the worst attack on U.S. soil since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, and it gained some initial credence from a New York Post report that a 20-year-old Saudi national had been picked up as a “person of interest.” Police quickly threw cold water on that report, but then Boston TV station WABC reported that police are “searching for a darker skinned or black male with a black backpack and black sweatshirt, possibly foreign national from the accent of the individual.”

Another anonymous law enforcement official “notes that the manner of the attack suggests it may have been Al Qaeda inspired — if not Al Qaeda directed,” says Christopher Dickey at The Daily Beast. That’s because the construction of the bombs — gunpowder with ball-bearings and other shrapnel to maximize the damage — is similar to a bomb recipe shared by Al Qaeda “on its internet manuals for terrorist attacks.”

Of course, not everyone is convinced. “Horrific as this obviously was, it doesn’t seem big enough” for an attack by Arab terrorists, says The Daily Beast‘s Tomasky. “Everything we know about their m.o. — the 1993 WTC bombing, the 2000 LAX plot, and 9-11 — suggests that they aim bigger.”

2. Right-wing militia types
This theory, too, was inevitable. And most proponents point to the date — Patriots’ Day — as a clue. Residents of Massachusetts and Maine celebrate Patriots’ Day by taking the day off of work and re-enacting the first battles of the American Revolution, says Sommer Mathis at The Atlantic Cities. “But in recent years, Second Amendment activists and anti-government modern-day militia members have tried to co-opt the holiday, which also roughly marks the anniversary of the Oklahoma City bombing.”

It’s also “wise in these cases to remember that the 1995 bombing of the Federal Building in Oklahoma City and the bombing at the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 were carried out by Americans who espoused extreme right-wing causes,” says The Daily Beast‘s Dickey.

There’s also the fact that the Boston Marathon fell on tax day this year, and the last mile of the race “was dedicated to Newtown victims,” says Tomasky.

But man you would have to be a really 100 percent out-there sicko to think that this was how you wanted to make a political statement about gun rights. I think there are dangerous extremists among that group, but I don’t think even they would do or approve of doing something like this. [Daily Beast]

3. The government
“False flag” attack proponents wasted no time blaming the government for staging the Boston explosions to achieve their own ends, says Alex Seitz-Wald at Salon. First out of the gate was Alex Jones, who tweeted: “Our hearts go out to those that are hurt or killed #Boston marathon – but this thing stinks to high heaven #falseflag.”

Then “Dan Bidondi, a ‘reporter/analyist’ (sic) for Alex Jones’s InfoWars, managed to ask Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick the very first question in a nationally televised press conference,” notes Slate‘s David Weigel:

Why were the loud speakers telling people in the audience to be calm moments before the bombs went off? Is this another false flag staged attack to take our civil liberties and promote homeland security while sticking their hands down our pants on the streets? [Via Slate]

“Patrick, looking on with a mixture of rage and pity, said ‘no,’ surely aware that he couldn’t halt this guy’s incipient Internet fame,” says Weigel. But the inevitable Boston marathon “truthers” will have a hard time with this conspiracy theory. There were too many cameras and witnesses to “concoct a really compelling conspiracy theory,” and the real-time fact-checking on Twitter has decimated the bad information that conspiracies need to thrive. For example, those “loud speakers” urging calm never happened.

4. A criminally insane lone wolf
There’s also the possibility that this attack was perpetrated by some “local nutcase,” says Tomasky at The Daily Beast. “I guess I am right now leaning in that least conspiratorial direction.” Unfortunately, in our “open and free society,” people can cause massive destruction with a few well-placed bombs. There’s a decent chance the Boston marathon attackers were “motivated by simple revenge of some kind, or by nothing but the disease in someone’s brain.”

New York

Empire State Of Mind

The Empire State Building.
Image via Wikipedia

I love my home town, New York City.  The warmth of it’s people, the way we come together in times of crisis, the enormously talented children and adults.  I could go on describing so much of what I love about My City.  However, let me show you what I mean.  Spike Lee and State Farm did an awesome job on the following video(s).

Part I

Part II

Mid-East Wars

The $1.2 Trillion Trap: What America Gave Up For 10 Years Of War Since 9/11

Think Progress


By spending this much money on wars that ended up being America’s longest in history, the United States in some ways fell into Bin Laden’s trap. This money could’ve been used in ways that would’ve invested in America — securing access to health care, a decent education, and infrastructure for alternative energy. Using NPP metrics, ThinkProgress has assembled ten alternative policies that the United States could’ve pursued instead with this money that has been spent on the wars so far:

– Provide 63.3 Million Scholarships For University Students Every Year For Ten Years

– Give 58.9 Million Children Low-Income Health Care Every Year For Ten Years

– Give 23.6 Million People Access To Low-Income Healthcare Every Year For Ten Years

– Provide 20.68 Million Students With Pell Grants Worth $5,500 Every Year For Ten Years

– Provide 15.12 Million Head Start Slots For Children Every Year For Ten Years

– Provide Veterans Administration Care For 14.7 Million Military Veterans Every Year For Ten Years

– Hire 2.01 Million Firefighters Every Year For Ten Years

– Hire 1.76 Million Elementary School Teachers Every Year For Ten Years

– Hire 1.73 Million Police Officers Every Year For Ten Years

– Retrofit 69.4 Million Households For Wind Power Every Year For Ten Years

– Retrofit 26 Million Households For Solar Photovoltaic Energy Every Year For Ten Years

These numbers reflect only the monetary costs of the wars. The human costs are much more difficult to calculate, both because it is it impossible to quantify the value of a human life and because calculating the death toll among Iraqis and Afghans is very difficult. But over 6,400 American soldiers have perished in Iraq, Afghanistan, or supporting theaters and death tolls in Iraq and Afghanistan combined are in the hundreds of thousands.

The cost in blood and treasure of these wars since 9/11 demonstrate that they enacted a heavy toll on our country, and this data should inform our actions in the future.

Related articles

George W. Bush · Osama Bin-Laden

Bush Credits ‘The Work That Was Done’ During ‘My Presidency’ For Osama Bin Laden’s Death

Oh my goodness! President George W. Bush frequently said that he didn’t know where Bin laden was and that frankly, he didn’t care where he was. Now he tries to take the credit for it?

Think Progress

President Bush sat down with USA Today to discuss the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks and his role in shaping U.S. policy in their aftermath. During the interview, Bush thought he’d take the opportunity topat himself on the back for Osama bin Laden’s death:

Bush said the events that led to the death of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in May began during his administration.

The work that was done by intelligence communities during my presidency was part of putting together the puzzle that enabled us to see the full picture of how bin Laden was communicating and eventually where he was hiding,” he said. “It began the day after 9/11.”

The reality, of course, is that Bush’s attempts to capture or kill bin Laden were huge failures. While it’s been well documented that the Bush administration missed an opportunity to get bin Laden in Tora Bora in 2001, Bush himself subsequently stated publicly that he wasn’t spending much time thinking about getting him. “I truly am not that concerned about him. I am deeply concerned about Iraq,” Bush said in 2002, “I really just don’t spend that much time on him, to be honest with you.” Bush told reporters in 2006 that hunting the al Qaeda leader was “not a top priority use of American resources.”

And in 2005, Bush shut down the CIA’s unit dedicated to finding bin Laden in order to shift resources to Iraq. “The Central Intelligence Agency has closed a unit that for a decade had the mission of hunting Osama bin Laden and his top lieutenants,” the New York Times reported in 2006, adding that resources “had been redirected from the hunt for Mr. bin Laden to the search for Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, who was killed last month in Iraq.” When the right wing rushed to give Bush credit after bin Laden’s death in May, ThinkProgress produced this short video highlighting Bush’s failures:

Soon after he took office, President Obama steered the U.S. on a course to end the war in Iraq and put resources back into finding bin Laden. “Shortly after I got into office,” Obama said in aninterview after bin Laden’s death, “I brought [then-CIA director] Leon Panetta privately into the Oval Office and I said to him, ‘We need to redouble our efforts in hunting bin Laden down. And I want us to start putting more resources, more focus, and more urgency into that mission.’”

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National Security

Al Qaeda No. 2 Killed In Pakistan This Week

U.S. troops in Afghanistan
Image via Wikipedia

Many people see President Obama as many things, but what they can’t accuse him of is being soft on defense…

TPM News

Al Qaeda’s new second-in-command was killed earlier this week in Pakistan, U.S. officials said Saturday, in a major blow to the group still reeling from the death of Osama bin Laden.

Atiyah abd al-Rahman, a Libyan national, rose to the number two spot when Ayman al-Zawahri took the reins of al Qaeda after bin Laden was killed in May in a U.S. raid in Pakistan.

One U.S. official said Rahman was killed in a strike by an unmanned drone on August 22. He was killed in Waziristan in northwest Pakistan where intelligence officials believe members of al Qaeda are hiding, other U.S. officials said.

“Atiyah’s death is a tremendous loss for al Qaeda, because (Zawahri) was relying heavily on him to help guide and run the organization, especially since bin Laden’s death,” one U.S. official said.

“The trove of materials from bin Laden’s compound showed clearly that Atiyah was deeply involved in directing al Qaeda’s operations even before the (May) raid. He had multiple responsibilities in the organization and will be very difficult to replace,” the official said.

U.S. and Pakistani intelligence ties have been strained since the unilateral American strike against bin Laden, and Pakistani intelligence did not confirm Rahman’s death. Sources in Pakistan said four people known to have been killed in a U.S. drone strike on August 22 were local militants and not al Qaeda.

Although most U.S. officials described Rahman as al Qaeda’s No. 2, one said his rank wasn’t as clear, saying he could be considered one of the top three leaders of the organization.

Regardless, Rahman’s death, if confirmed, would signal another significant setback for al Qaeda’s core group just days before the tenth anniversary of the September 11, 2001 attacks.

In the past decade, al Qaeda’s affiliates have become a greater concern, with its Yemen-based off-shoot now seen in Washington as the bigger threat to the United States.

Continue reading here…

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