Tag Archives: Congress

Congress to Require Reports on Classified Leaks

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Following Edward Snowden’s massive leaks of classified documents, Congress wants the Department of Defense (DoD) to report on its responses to insider leaks and threats.

Included in the pending National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2015 is a two-year requirement for the Secretary of Defense to report new policies created in response to significant leaks of classified information, the Federation of American Scientists’ Steven Aftergood reported Monday.

The provision will also require more reports on the Obama administration’s “Insider Threat Program,” which was created to ferret out leakers.

“Compromises of classified information cause indiscriminate and long-lasting damage to United States national security and often have a direct impact on the safety of warfighters,” the Act reads.

The Act makes apparent references to both Wikileaks and Snowden’s disclosures of classified documents.

“In 2010, hundreds of thousands of classified documents were illegally copied and disclosed across the Internet,” the Act reads. “In 2013, nearly 1,700,000 files were downloaded from United States Government information systems, threatening the national security of the United States and placing the lives of United States personnel at extreme risk.”

The Obama administration has aggressively cracked down on leaks, going so far as to target the journalists who work with them.

The director of national intelligence announced a new policy in April forbidding unapproved contact with reporters.

While the directive refers to intelligence matters, it made no distinction between classified or unclassified information. The memo forbids unauthorized “contact with the media about intelligence-related information, including intelligence sources, methods, activities, and judgments (hereafter, ‘covered matters’).”

The Justice Department previously subpoenaed the phone records and emails of journalists suspected of consorting with leakers.

The measures have led to loud protests from journalism organizations. In a report last year by the Committee to Protect Journalists, numerous national security reporters said the leak prosecutions and other measures have had a noticeable chilling effect on their work, and several compared the Obama administration to Nixon’s.

 

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Stop Calling the Iraq War a ‘Mistake’ | Dennis J. Kucinich

As Iraq descends into chaos again, more than a decade after “Mission Accomplished,” media commentators and politicians have mostly agreed upon calling the war a “mistake.” But the “mistake” rhetoric is the language of denial, not contrition: it minimizes the Iraq War‘s disastrous consequences, removes blame, and deprives Americans of any chance to learn from our generation’s foreign policy disaster. The Iraq War was not a “mistake” — it resulted from calculated deception. The painful, unvarnished fact is that we were lied to. Now is the time to have the willingness to say that.

In fact, the truth about Iraq was widely available, but it was ignored. There were no WMD. Saddam Hussein had nothing to do with 9/11. The war wasn’t about liberating the Iraqi people. I said this in Congress in 2002. Millions of people who marched in America in protest of the war knew the truth, but were maligned by members of both parties for opposing the president in a time of war — and even leveled with the spurious charge of “not supporting the troops.”

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I’ve written and spoken widely about this topic, so today I offer two ways we can begin to address our role:

1) President Obama must tell us the truth about Iraq and the false scenario that caused us to go to war.

When Obama took office in 2008, he announced that his administration would not investigate or prosecute the architects of the Iraq War. Essentially, he suspended public debate about the war. That may have felt good in the short term for those who wanted to move on, but when you’re talking about a war initiated through lies, bygones can’t be bygones.

The unwillingness to confront the truth about the Iraq War has induced a form of amnesia which is hazardous to our nation’s health. Willful forgetting doesn’t heal, it opens the door to more lying. As today’s debate ensues about new potential military “solutions” to stem violence in Iraq, let’s remember how and why we intervened in Iraq in 2003.

2) Journalists and media commentators should stop giving inordinate air and print time to people who were either utterly wrong in their support of the war or willful in their calculations to make war.

By and large, our Fourth Estate accepted uncritically the imperative for war described by top administration officials and congressional leaders. The media fanned the flames of war by not giving adequate coverage to the arguments against military intervention.

President Obama didn’t start the Iraq War, but he has the opportunity now to tell the truth. That we were wrong to go in. That the cause of war was unjust. That more problems were created by military intervention than solved. That the present violence and chaos in Iraq derives from the decision which took America to war in 2003. More than a decade later, it should not take courage to point out the Iraq war was based on lies.

House to Vote on Bill to Stop ‘Imperial Presidency’ Next Week

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House Republican Conference Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (Wash.) and Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) laid out their plans to counter President Barack Obama’s executive overreach, in a conference call Thursday.

The House will continue its efforts to push back against the “imperial presidency” next week, by voting on additional legislation that would allow Congress to challenge executive moves in federal court.

“Clearly President Obama has taken the über presidency to a whole new level,” McMorris Rodgers said. “While it’s not new for presidents to stretch their constitutional limits of power, executive overreach has accelerated at a faster pace under President Obama.”

“Throughout his tenure we have witnessed a pattern,” she said. “When the president disagrees with laws, he ignores them. And now that Obamacare isn’t working, President Obama is rewriting his own law on a whim.”

“He may have his pen and his phone, but we have the Constitution, and we must abide by it,” McMorris Rodgers said.

Republican complaints against Obama’s unilateral actions were only exacerbated this week when the administration announced that individuals would be able to keep their so-called “substandard” health insurance plans that do not comply with Obamacare until October 2017.

“This is just another example of the president picking and choosing portions of the law that he wants to enforce,” McMorris Rodgers said. “If you’ve spent any time around the legislative process, you know that there’s a big difference between the word ‘shall’ and ‘may.’ And you don’t have the choice when you are implementing the law to decide that you’re going to treat it as a ‘may.’ And that is what this president is doing.”

“[Obama] is unilaterally deciding what portions of the law he is going to implement and how and when he’s going to go about that,” she said.

Chairman Issa, who has led the push against the IRS targeting of conservative groups, said what is more concerning is the lack of transparency by the Obama administration.

Overreach at the IRS stands out, Issa said, while other abuses go unnoticed.

“The harder ones are simple discovery,” he said. “Every committee of the Congress has asked for and not received information on areas [such as] Benghazi, Fast and Furious, investigations of wrongdoing often having nothing directly to do with the president.”

“But repeatedly the president—who promised us the most transparent administration—has been the least willing to cooperate with Congress’ need to hold people accountable,” Issa said.

The lawmakers said H.R. 4138, the “ENFORCE the Law Act,” sponsored by Rep. Trey Gowdy (R., S.C.) is the best solution to ensure the president abides by Article II, section 3, the obligation to faithfully execute the law.

“It would be a clear delineation that Congress, either the House or the Senate, on behalf of the American people would have the ability to bring to the courts, just as an individual might if they have been harmed by their government, a concern about an executive order, or any overreach or misuse of the law,” Issa said.

The bill would authorize the House or Senate to sue the executive branch for not enforcing laws and provide an expedited process through federal district courts.

“This expedited review is crucial in order to ensure that when a lawsuit is brought against the administration to enforce our laws, the courts not only grant Congress standing, but also hear the case on an expedited timeline to prevent the president from stalling the litigation until his term is up,” Gowdy’s office said when announcing the legislation.

Gowdy said the most recent Obamacare delay emphasizes the need for his legislation.

“The latest delay once again illustrates how the president will unilaterally change a law to suit his political needs—even if it is his signature piece of legislation, the Affordable Care Act,” he said in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon.

“The administration is rewriting our laws by administrative fiat. This is not how our system was designed to work and the American people expect us to step up and take a stand,” Gowdy said.  “The ENFORCE the Law Act is one more remedy Congress can use to rein in executive overreach.”

Issa said the bill is the “perfect example” of what the House can do to “push back against any imperial presidency.”

“The left is constantly bringing suits to the EPA based on not doing enough on clean air and clean water and so on, and they’re always granted standing and then ultimately they often are forcing the EPA through ‘sue and settle’ to do things,” he said. “And yet when the president does something through executive order, or the EPA does something beyond their jurisdiction, it’s very hard to get into court. So this is a really smart way to do it.”

The House is expected to vote on the bill next week. Though Democrats control the Senate, Issa said Republicans are serious about advancing the legislation and could attach it to a “must-pass” bill, such as a budgetary measure, to force the Senate’s hand.

“One of the biggest challenges that we’ve had, specifically related to Obamacare, is that no one has standing in court yet,” McMorris Rodgers said. “Members in the House of Representatives have a responsibility to the people that we represent— 700,000 a piece.”

House to Vote on Bill to Stop ‘Imperial Presidency’ Next Week | Washington Free Beacon.

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‘The Imperial Presidency’

House holds hearing on executive overreach

Members of Congress and constitutional law experts testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday, warning that the legislative branch is in danger of ceding its power in the face of an “imperial presidency.”

The hearing, “Enforcing the President’s Constitutional Duty to Faithfully Execute the Laws,” focused on the multiple areas President Barack Obama has bypassed Congress, ranging from healthcare and immigration to marriage and welfare rules.

Jonathan Turley, Shapiro Professor of Public Interest Law at George Washington University, testified that the expansion of executive power is happening so fast that America is at a “constitutional tipping point.”

“My view [is] that the president, has in fact, exceeded his authority in a way that is creating a destabilizing influence in a three branch system,” he said. “I want to emphasize, of course, this problem didn’t begin with President Obama, I was critical of his predecessor President Bush as well, but the rate at which executive power has been concentrated in our system is accelerating. And frankly, I am very alarmed by the implications of that aggregation of power.”

“What also alarms me, however, is that the two other branches appear not just simply passive, but inert in the face of this concentration of authority,” Turley said.

While Turley agrees with many of Obama’s policy positions, he steadfastly opposes the method he goes about enforcing them.

“The fact that I happen to think the president is right on many of these policies does not alter the fact that I believe the means he is doing [it] is wrong, and that this can be a dangerous change in our system,” he said. “And our system is changing in a very fundamental way. And it’s changing without a whimper of regret or opposition.”

Elizabeth Price Foley, a law professor at Florida International University College of Law, agreed, warning that Congress is in danger of becoming “superfluous.”

“Situations like this, these benevolent suspensions as they get more and more frequent and more and more aggressive, they’re eroding our citizens’ respect for the rule of law,” she said. “We are a country of law and not men. It’s going to render Congress superfluous.”

Foley said Congress is not able to tackle meaningful legislation out of fear that Obama would “simply benevolently suspend portions of the law he doesn’t like.”

“If you want to stay relevant as an institution, I would suggest that you not stand idly by and let the president take your power away,” she said.

Panelists and members of Congress dismissed the idea of impeachment, and instead focused on lawsuits to challenge the constitutionality of the president’s unilateral moves.

Four House members testified on the first panel during the hearing to highlight legislation they have sponsored to thwart the administration’s executive overreach.

Impeachment would “surely be extremely divisive within the Congress and the nation generally, and would divert the attention of Congress from other important issues of the day,” said Rep. Jim Gerlach (R., Pa.).

Gerlach, who testified before the committee, introduced H.R. 3857, the “Enforce the Take Care Clause Act,” which would expedite the review and injunction process for federal courts to challenge executive actions. Such a challenge would have to pass a supermajority in both chambers in order to be fast-tracked.

“Given the growing number of examples where this President has clearly failed to faithfully execute all laws, I believe it is time for Congress to put in place a procedure for a fast-track, independent review of those executive actions,” he said.

Gerlach said he proposed the bill due to Obama’s repeated alterations to his signature law, the Affordable Care Act.

“The ACA has been revised, altered and effectively rewritten by the president and his administration 23 times since July,” he said.

“When we have these constant changes at the president’s whim think about what that does to businesses’ planning capabilities and hiring capabilities and their expansion capabilities,” Rep. Tom Rice (R., S.C.) said. “We shouldn’t wonder why our economy is struggling.”

Rice has proposed the “Stop This Overreaching Presidency (STOP) Resolution” as a remedy. The resolution, which has 114 cosponsors, would direct the House to file lawsuits against four of the president’s unilateral actions, including the employer mandate delay in Obamacare and deferred action program for illegal immigrants.

Turley said Congress must take action to regain their power as the “thumping heart of our system.”

“The fact is, we’re stuck with each other,” Turley said. “Whether we like it or not in a system of shared powers. For better or worse we may deadlock, we maybe despise each other. The framers foresaw such periods, they lived in such a period.”

via ‘The Imperial Presidency’ | Washington Free Beacon.

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Plan to split California into 6 states gets closer to vote

Plan to divide California into 6 states gets closer to vote

Plan to divide California into 6 states gets closer to vote

Silicon Valley venture capitalist Tim Draper’s proposal to break the US state of California into six new states has moved one step closer to getting on a ballot for vote in November.

Draper has been on a campaign to collect 807,615 signatures needed to get his plan on the ballot that could split California into six new states called Jefferson, North California, Silicon Valley, Central California, West California and South California.

According to California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, Draper has been given the go-ahead to begin collecting signatures for the petition to carve up the United States’ most populous state.

Now he has until July 18 to collect the signatures of 807,615 registered voters to push his plan ahead that would also require approval by the Congress.

Draper, who is the founder of the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, said in a statement on Thursday, that California is too big to manage and essentially ungovernable.

“It is more and more difficult for Sacramento to keep up with the social issues from the various regions of California. With six Californias, people will be closer to their state governments and states can get a refresh,” Draper said.

Political experts say that Draper’s initiative stands little chance of success.

SECRETARY OF STATE BOWEN HAS NO AUTHORITY TO DIVIDE CALIFORNIA – THE US INDEPENDENT : THE US INDEPENDENT.

PressTV – Plan to split California into 6 states gets closer to vote.

Senate Egypt bill could ease US aid after coup | The Back Channel

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The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is expected to introduce an Egypt aid bill Wednesday that if passed could set a precedent for loosening current restrictions on US assistance to post-coup countries, Congressional sources tell Al-Monitor.

Sen. Robert Menendez  (D-NJ), the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is expected to introduce the bill, called the Egypt Assistance Reform Act of 2013, at a SFRC business meeting or Wednesday.  The bill is listed as the first item on the published agenda  for the committee meeting.

A senior US administration official, speaking not for attribution Tuesday, said the bill is expected to pass, but it isn’t clear that Menendez has a vehicle to bring it to the floor before the end of the week, after which Congress is expected to go on break. The real test will be the continuing resolution or the omnibus in early January, the official said.

The bill, while geared to Egypt, could have wider implications for US defense/security and economic assistance to post coup countries universally, one Congressional staffer, speaking not for attribution, said. If passed, it would virtually eliminate the restrictions of Section 7008, which currently prevents aid to post coup countries, by offering a framework for a waiver, which could be renewed. The Congressional staffer suggested the Obama White House had been closely involved in drafting the text of the legislation with the SFRC.

“We are continuing to work with the Congress to ensure we obtain the funding and authorities necessary to provide assistance for Egypt, consistent with the approach we outlined earlier this year,” Bernadette Meehan, spokesperson for the National Security Council, told Al-Monitor Wednesday.

A spokesman for the SFRC majority staff contacted by Al-Monitor Tuesday evening said he may not be able to get guidance on the matter before Wednesday.  A spokesman for ranking SFRC Republican Bob Corker of Tennessee could not immediately be reached Tuesday.

The proposed bill would provide “the administration a legislative roadmap forward for U.S. assistance to continue to Egypt despite current legal restrictions on aid to countries where a military coup d’état has taken place,” a summary of the draft bill provided to Al-Monitor states.

“Though a number of requirements for continuing assistance under the waiver are specified, the bill removes standing legislative restrictions on U.S. assistance in cases of military coups and sets a potentially dangerous precedent for ad-hoc legislative waivers to be obtained by the administration in the future, should it desire,” the summary continues.

Under the proposed legislation, the “Secretary of States could waive such an aid suspension for 180 days after consultation and upon providing Congress a detailed justification and report which certifies ‘that providing such assistance is in the vital national security interests of the United States’ and that the government “is committed to restoring democratic governance and due process of law, and is taking demonstrable steps toward holding free and fair elections in a reasonable time frame,’” the summary states. “The waiver could be extended by additional 180-day periods following the same process.”

Senate Egypt bill could ease US aid after coup | The Back Channel.

 

Israel issues warning to Iran over nuclear bomb report | Fox News

An Israeli defense official says a new report claiming Iran could produce enough weapons-grade uranium to build a nuclear bomb in less than a month is further justification for why Israel will take military action before that happens.

Danny Danon, Israel’s deputy defense minister told USA Today that Iran is speedily moving to develop advanced centrifuges that will enable it to enrich uranium needed for nuclear weapons within weeks.

“We have made it crystal clear – in all possible forums, that Israel will not stand by and watch Iran develop weaponry that will put us, the entire Middle East and eventually the world, under an Iranian umbrella of terror,” Danny Danon, Israel’s deputy defense minister told USA Today.

The United States and other world powers fear Iran is trying to develop nuclear weapons. The Islamic republic says its program is for peaceful energy production, and this week’s meetings in part focused on how to scale back its enrichment of material that can be used to generate power or nuclear warhead material.

The Institute for Science and International Security on Thursday issued a report stating that Iran  could produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a nuclear bomb in as little as one month, USA Today reported. The organization’s estimates did not include the time required to build a reliable warhead for a ballistic missile

Meanwhile, the Obama administration is asking Congress to hold off on enacting new sanctions against Iran, arguing that a pause in the push to impose new penalties would give negotiators flexibility in talks now underway to get Iran to comply with demands it prove its nuclear program is peaceful.

Even as U.S. officials argue that tough sanctions are what brought Iran to the negotiating table in the first place, the White House and State Department said Friday the administration wants lawmakers to wait on new sanctions legislation to give the negotiations time to get traction. Some lawmakers have argued that now is not the time to ease pressure and that pursuing new sanctions will give the U.S. additional leverage in the talks.

But, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said it was the consensus of the administration’s national security teams that a pause “would be helpful in terms of providing some flexibility while we see if these negotiations will move forward.” She said the position was delivered to lawmakers and congressional aides at a White House meeting on Thursday.

“We have conveyed that any congressional action should be aligned with our negotiating strategy as we move forward. So while we understand that Congress may consider new sanctions, we think this is a time for a pause, as we asked for in the past, to see if negotiations can gain traction,” Psaki told reporters.

She noted that additional sanctions can always be imposed later if the Iranians fail to meet their obligations, and she stressed that no existing sanctions are being lifted.

At the White House, national security council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said the negotiations would not last indefinitely without progress and movement from Iran, which has long defied international demands to come clean about its nuclear intentions.

“The window for negotiation is not open-ended, and if progress isn’t made, there may be a time when more sanctions are, in fact, necessary,” Hayden said. “We have always said that there would be no agreement overnight, and we’ve been clear that this process is going to take some time.”

Bipartisan pressure in Congress to ramp up sanctions on Iran has been rising for some time and hit a new high last week after negotiators from the United States, the other four permanent members of the U.N. Security Council and Germany met with Iranian officials in Geneva.

The chief U.S. negotiator, Wendy Sherman, told Congress before those talks that the administration would support tougher sanctions on Iran if it didn’t come to the Geneva talks with “concrete, substantive actions” and a verifiable plan to scale back its nuclear program.

The Senate Banking Committee is expected soon to draft new sanctions shortly after the government reopens, largely mirroring a House bill that passed overwhelmingly by a 400-20 vote in July and blacklisted Iran’s mining and construction sectors. It also called for all Iranian oil sales to end by 2015.

The Senate’s bill may narrow that timeframe, block international investment in more economic sectors, try to close off Iran’s foreign accounts and tighten Obama’s ability to waive requirements for allies and key trading partners who continue to do business with Iran.

Israel issues warning to Iran over nuclear bomb report | Fox News.