The exceedingly long Christmas weekend had some notably sad and tragic news that dominated news cycle. Here are a couple of the important stories that were buried.
Cuomo, Christie Veto Bill To Reform Port Authority
By Dave Klepper and Michael Cantalini, Huffington Post
The governors of New York and New Jersey jointly vetoed legislation Saturday aimed at overhauling the Port Authority and proposed instead a series of reforms they said would go further in bringing accountability to the agency.
The bill was designed to clean up an agency long known for dysfunction and scandals, including most recently the lane closures at the George Washington Bridge that ensnarled New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s administration. It had the unanimous support of the New York and New Jersey legislatures.
The bill would have overhauled the troubled agency by requiring an independent annual audit, creating an inspector general’s office, restricting lobbying and creating a whistleblower protection program. It also would have required Port Authority board members to swear they’ll act in good faith. [..]
“It’s really just an awful thing for them to do. Neither of them can ever stand up and say they’re for effective reform,” said former New York Assemblyman Richard Brodsky, a Democrat, who had predicted the veto. “In a competition between effective reform and power, power won. Reform ends on Christmas, but scandals go on forever.”
New Jersey Sen. Loretta Weinberg said the decision was a “cop-out,” and Assemblyman John Wisniewski said he’s disappointed the bill didn’t become law.
“I find it very disappointing that both governors together decided to turn their backs on their respective legislators,” Weinberg said. [..]
In place of the legislation, Cuomo and Christie on Saturday recommended reforms and said they would ask authority board members for their resignations. They called for a single chief executive officer to oversee the authority in place of an executive director and deputy executive director under the current system.
Weinberg said those reforms would have been possible under the legislation, too.
“There is nothing in this legislation that prevents them from moving ahead with those reforms,” she said.
And for some unknown reason, neither state legislature will move to over ride the vetoes of Criminal One and Criminal Two. A bill, btw, that was passed nearly unanimously by both bodies. It’s too hard
NSA Drops Christmas Eve Surprise
By Murtaza Hussain, The Intercept
The National Security Agency on Christmas Eve day released twelve years of internal oversight reports documenting abusive and improper practices by agency employees. The heavily redacted reports to the President’s Intelligence Oversight Board found that NSA employees repeatedly engaged in unauthorized surveillance of communications by American citizens, failed to follow legal guidelines regarding the retention of private information, and shared data with unauthorized recipients. [..]
The reports, released in response to a Freedom of Information Act request submitted by the American Civil Liberties Union, offer few revelations, but contain accounts of internal behavior embarrassing to the agency. In one instance an NSA employee “searched her spouse’s personal telephone directory without his knowledge to obtain names and telephone numbers for targeting”, a practice which previous reports have indicated was common enough to warrant the name “LOVEINT”.
Don’t start banging you head on the desk just yet
After Scrutiny, C.I.A. Mandate Is Untouched
Mark Mazzetti, New York Times
Senator Angus King, a member of the Intelligence Committee, said that Hollywood depictions of torture have distorted the public’s view of its efficacy.
“Every week, Jack Bauer saves civilization by torturing someone, and it works,” said Mr. King, the independent from Maine, referring to the lead character of the television show “24.”
Mr. King said that he was initially skeptical about the need to release the torture report, but when he spent five straight evenings reading it in a secure room on Capitol Hill he decided that the C.I.A. abuses needed a public airing.
“It went from interest, to a sick feeling, to disgust, and finally to anger,” he said.
But the Obama administration has made clear that it has no plans to make anyone legally accountable for the practices described by the C.I.A. as enhanced interrogation techniques and the Intelligence Committee as torture. The American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch sent a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. this week asking him to appoint a special prosecutor to examine the report’s allegations, but the request will almost certainly be rejected.
And while Senator King called the Intelligence Committee’s report “Church Committee II,” he, like many other Democrats on the Intelligence Committee, remains a broad supporter of the C.I.A.’s paramilitary mission that Mr. Obama has embraced during his time in the White House. [..]
And as America’s spying apparatus has grown larger, richer and more powerful than during any other time in its history, it has become ever harder for those keeping watch over it.
“We are 15 people overseeing a $50 billion enterprise,” said Senator King, speaking of his fellow members on the Senate Intelligence Committee.
“I can’t tell you I know with certainty every intelligence program this enterprise is engaged in.”
Off duty, black cops in New York feel threat from fellow police
By Michelle Conlin, Reuters
From the dingy donut shops of Manhattan to the cloistered police watering holes in Brooklyn, a number of black NYPD officers say they have experienced the same racial profiling that cost Eric Garner his life. [..]
What’s emerging now is that, within the thin blue line of the NYPD, there is another divide – between black and white officers.
Reuters interviewed 25 African American male officers on the NYPD, 15 of whom are retired and 10 of whom are still serving. All but one said that, when off duty and out of uniform, they had been victims of racial profiling, which refers to using race or ethnicity as grounds for suspecting someone of having committed a crime.
The officers said this included being pulled over for no reason, having their heads slammed against their cars, getting guns brandished in their faces, being thrown into prison vans and experiencing stop and frisks while shopping. The majority of the officers said they had been pulled over multiple times while driving. Five had had guns pulled on them. [..]
The black officers interviewed said they had been racially profiled by white officers exclusively, and about one third said they made some form of complaint to a supervisor.
All but one said their supervisors either dismissed the complaints or retaliated against them by denying them overtime, choice assignments, or promotions. The remaining officers who made no complaints said they refrained from doing so either because they feared retribution or because they saw racial profiling as part of the system.
Last, a little reminder of just how bad the nation’s largest police department really is.
Nine terrifying facts about America’s biggest police force
Tana Ganeva and Laura Gottesdiener, Alternet
The NYPD has expanded into a massive global anti-terror operation with military capabilities
The NYPD is the biggest police force in the country, with over 34,000 uniformed officers patrolling New York’s streets, and 51,000 employees overall – more than the FBI. It has a proposed budget of $4.6 billion for 2013, a figure that represents almost 15 percent of the entire city’s budget (pdf).
NYC’s population is a little over 8 million. That means that there are 4.18 police officers per 1,000 people. By comparison, Los Angeles, the second largest city in the U.S. with 3.8 million people, has only 9,895 officers-a ratio of 2.6 police per 1,000 people.
What has the NYPD been doing with all that cash and manpower? In addition to ticketing minorities for standing outside of their homes, spying on Muslims who live in New Jersey, abusing protesters, and gunning down black teens over weed, the NYPD has expanded into a massive global anti-terror operation with surveillance and military capabilities unparalleled in the history of US law enforcement.
In an email published by WikiLeaks, an FBI official joked about how shocked Americans would be if they knew how egregiously the NYPD is stomping all over their civil liberties. But what we already know is bad enough. Here’s a round-up of what the department has been up to lately.
OK, start banging but please put a pillow on the desk.