June 18, 2013 archive

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NSA Scandal Seems to Have Done Serious Damage to Obama’s Image

By: Jon Walker, Firedog Lake

Monday June 17, 2013 7:40 am

It appears the recent revelations about the NSA surveillance programs and President Obama’s less than honest defense of them has done some real damage to his standing with the American people.

According to a new CNN poll, Obama’s job approval rating is now negative. Only 45 percent approve of how he is handling his job while 54 percent disapprove. This is the lowest it has been in CNN’s poll since 2011.

Even more concerning for Obama is that for the first time a majority of the country doesn’t see him as honest and trustworthy. The poll found 49 percent view him as trustworthy while 50 percent do not. This may not seem terrible, but this is a nine point drop in the number who see him as honest in less than a month. Back in May, 58 percent said Obama was honest.

Once you lose the public’s trust it becomes much harder to defend your actions going forward because you will no longer be given the benefit of the doubt.

Obama doubles down on NSA defense as poll numbers slip

By Justin Sink, The Hill

06/17/13 05:57 PM ET

The interview underscored the defensive posture the White House has adopted in recent weeks, with the president arguing that the NSA spying is “transparent” despite Rose noting that the independent court created to monitor the program served essentially as a rubber stamp.

(A) new poll released Monday by CNN found significant damage to the president’s brand.

Half of those surveyed said they do not believe the president to be trustworthy, the first time a majority has held that opinion. Moreover, the president lost 10 points among independents and 17 points among those under 30, suggesting widespread unease about the programs.

Phil Singer, a veteran of Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign, said Obama’s task is complicated by other controversies, including the Internal Revenue Service’s admitted targeting of conservative political action groups and the Justice Department’s investigations into reporters.

Obama has come under fire from the left for attacking Bush’s policies as a candidate but then employing similar policies as president. Edward Snowden, the 29-year-old contractor who leaked the programs to the press, said he did so in part from disappointment with Obama.

Democratic strategist Chris Lehane said public perceptions that Obama has somehow shifted on the use of surveillance programs since entering the White House is a problem.

“The issue is especially challenging given that there had been an expectation going back to the 2008 campaign that the choice between civil liberties and national security was a false choice,” said Lehane. “He has the double burden of both trying to justify the policies and make clear how they are in fact consistent with the political brand he established as far back as 2008.”

Strategists say the White House needs to regain control of the news cycle to prevent the slip in the polls from becoming a permanent downward spiral.

“Over the last several months, events have dictated this president instead of this president dictating events,” Singer said.

Surveillance programs divide Democrats


6/17/13 4:29 PM EDT

And in a politically peculiar moment – in which liberal icons like Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, up for reelection next year in a purple state, have loudly endorsed the National Security Agency tactics – the issue creates a vacuum into which a candidate on the left end of the spectrum could step into the 2016 fight.

Indeed, the darling of the progressive left, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), may be the only person who could easily thread the needle on this issue, having come to Congress just this year (her aides insist she is not running for president). But she – like most prominent Democratic elected officials – has had a muted response to the NSA, suggesting she’s waiting to see how it plays out.

Still, the atmosphere created by the NSA’s tactics could be ripe for a new figure on the left – if not Warren, then perhaps a Democratic primary challenger to a sitting senator. The goal wouldn’t necessarily have to be winning an election but using the campaign as a launchpad to become a progressive icon.

“I think Democrats are ultimately going to have a hard time jumping on the side of the progressive left” on national security, said foreign policy blogger Steve Clemons. “Democrats have tried so much to rid themselves of the Vietnam taint that they couldn’t be trusted … to make national security decisions.”

The prospective Democratic field includes governors who have had little to do with such national security decisions (Andrew Cuomo, John Hickenlooper, the fairly hawkish Martin O’Malley), but also senators who voted to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Minnesota’s Amy Klobuchar and New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, for instance).

Voting to renew FISA may be a potential negative for senators eyeing higher office. But Clinton and Biden have an inside-the-tent perspective on the Obama White House that other prospective nominees don’t.

When the initial NSA disclosures were made in news outlets in the past few weeks, a 2006 interview in which Biden told CBS News that the Bush-era snooping was “very intrusive” got new traction. “I was talking about a different program then,” Biden told a pool reporter following him last weekend about then versus now. “It was a different program.”

Markos Moulitsas, founder of the liberal blog Daily Kos, said he doesn’t “anticipate anything” being said by either Biden or Clinton on this front in the foreseeable future – unless issues like old interviews force the matter, and even then, only rhetorically.

“Both have presidential designs, and no president (or wannabe president) willingly gives up executive power,” Moulitsas, who has been deeply critical of Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) for defending the NSA programs, said in an email.

In a signal of the difficulties facing any presidential hopeful who isn’t a governor, Moulitsas added, “Rather than be outraged by this gross violation of our constitutional freedoms, Congress has, in mostly bipartisan fashion, decided to lecture us on how they are only lying to the public for its own good. I just wish we had more whistleblowers, and more U.S. companies talking about what the government is trying to make them do.”


On This Day In History June 18

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

Click on images to enlarge.

June 18 is the 169th day of the year (170th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 196 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1812, War of 1812 begins

The day after the Senate followed the House of Representatives in voting to declare war against Great Britain, President James Madison signs the declaration into law–and the War of 1812 begins. The American war declaration, opposed by a sizable minority in Congress, had been called in response to the British economic blockade of France, the induction of American seaman into the British Royal Navy against their will, and the British support of hostile Indian tribes along the Great Lakes frontier. A faction of Congress known as the “War Hawks” had been advocating war with Britain for several years and had not hidden their hopes that a U.S. invasion of Canada might result in significant territorial land gains for the United States.

The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire, including those of present-day Canada. The Americans declared war in 1812 for a number of reasons, including a desire for expansion into the Northwest Territory, trade restrictions because of Britain’s ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant sailors into the Royal Navy, British support of American Indian tribes against American expansion, and the humiliation of American honour. Until 1814, the British Empire adopted a defensive strategy, repelling multiple American invasions of the provinces of Upper and Lower Canada. However, the Americans gained control over Lake Erie in 1813, seized parts of western Ontario, and destroyed Tecumseh’s dream of an Indian confederacy. In the Southwest General Andrew Jackson humbled the Creek nation at the Battle of Horseshoe Bend but with the defeat of Napoleon in 1814, the British adopted a more aggressive strategy, sending in three large armies along with more patrols. British victory at the Battle of Bladensburg in August 1814 allowed the British to capture and burn Washington, D.C. American victories in September 1814 and January 1815 repulsed British invasions of New York, Baltimore and New Orleans.

The war was fought in three theaters: At sea, warships and privateers of both sides attacked each other’s merchant ships. The British blockaded the Atlantic coast of the U.S. and mounted large-scale raids in the later stages of the war. Both land and naval battles were fought on the frontier, which ran along the Great Lakes and Saint Lawrence River. The South and the Gulf coast saw major land battles in which the American forces destroyed Britain’s Indian allies and defeated the main British invasion force at New Orleans. Both sides invaded each other’s territory, but these invasions were unsuccessful or temporary. At the end of the war, both sides occupied parts of the other’s territory, but these areas were restored by the Treaty of Ghent.

In the U.S., battles such as the Battle of New Orleans and the earlier successful defense of Baltimore (which inspired the lyrics of the U.S. national anthem, “The Star-Spangled Banner”) produced a sense of euphoria over a “second war of independence” against Britain. It ushered in an “Era of Good Feelings” in which the partisan animosity that had once verged on treason practically vanished. Canada also emerged from the war with a heightened sense of national feeling and solidarity. Britain regarded the war as a sideshow to the Napoleonic Wars raging in Europe; it welcomed an era of peaceful relations and trade with the United States.

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I have just finished reading questions and answers that were put forth to Edward Snowden.  Snowden’s answers are intelligent, most articulate and totally understandable/logical.

I urge you to do a read, as well.

Edward Snowden Q and A: “The US Government Destroyed Any Possibility of a Fair Trial at Home”

The whistleblower behind the biggest intelligence leak in NSA history answered questions about the NSA surveillance revelations.

June 17, 2013  

It is the interview the world’s media organisations have been chasing for more than a week, but instead  Edward Snowden is giving Guardian readers the exclusive.

The 29-year-old former NSA contractor and  source of the Guardian’s NSA files coverage will – with the help of Glenn Greenwald – take your questions today on why he revealed the NSA’s top-secret surveillance of US citizens, the international storm that has ensued, and the uncertain future he now faces. Ask him anything.

Snowden, who has fled the US, told the Guardian he “does not expect to see home again”, but where he’ll end up has yet to be determined.

He will be online today from  11am ET/4pm BST today. An important caveat: the live chat is subject to Snowden’s security concerns and also his access to a secure internet connection. It is possible that he will appear and disappear intermittently, so if it takes him a while to get through the questions, please be patient.

To participate, post your question below and recommend your favorites. As he makes his way through the thread, we’ll embed his replies as posts in the live blog. You can also follow along on Twitter using the hashtag # AskSnowden.

We expect the site to experience high demand so we’ll re-publish the Q&A in full after the live chat has finished.

11.07am ET



17 June 2013 2:11pm

Let’s begin with these:

1) Why did you choose Hong Kong to go to and then tell them about US hacking on their research facilities and universities?

2) How many sets of the documents you disclosed did you make, and how many different people have them? If anything happens to you, do they still exist?


   1) First, the US Government, just as they did with other whistleblowers, immediately and predictably destroyed any possibility of a fair trial at home, openly declaring me guilty of treason and that the disclosure of secret, criminal, and even unconstitutional acts is an unforgivable crime. That’s not justice, and it would be foolish to volunteer yourself to it if you can do more good outside of prison than in it. . . .

I cannot see Snowden as anything but a man with a “nagging conscience,” such that steered him to his decision to reveal certain of his knowledges concerning the NSA activities.