The National Security Agency (NSA) admitted today that some NSA employees have abused their power to spy on the American people.
This statement contradicts President Obama, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) and National Security Agency head Army General Keith Alexander, who have all denied the NSA has abused its spying powers on Americans.
Ironically, the NSA statement supports claims made by whistleblower Edward Snowden, whom the Obama administration has charged with multiple crimes.
The NSA told Bloomberg News today: “Over the past decade, very rare instances of willful violations of NSA’s authorities have been found. NSA takes very seriously allegations of misconduct, and cooperates fully with any investigations, responding as appropriate. NSA has zero tolerance for willful violations of the agency’s authorities.”
The NSA added that this spying violated President Reagan's 1981 Executive Order 12333, which governs U.S. intelligence.
However, on Wednesday, White House spokesman Josh Earnest said that President Obama is standing by his statement that “there is no spying on Americans,” which is simply not true per the NSA's statement today.
Additionally, Army General Keith Alexander, director of the NSA, claimed on August 8 that “no one has willfully or knowingly disobeyed the law or tried to invade your civil liberties or privacy.”
The NSA also debunked Sen. Feinstein who said on August 16 that her intelligence committee “has never identified an instance in which the NSA has intentionally abused its authority to conduct surveillance for inappropriate purposes.”
Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) claimed on July 28 that there were “zero privacy violations” in the NSA's collection of information on Americans.
A NSA document released on August 21 showed that the NSA tapped up to 56,000 electronic communications a year from Americans not suspected of having links to terrorism.
Another document released by the NSA revealed that the secret FISA court ruled that the NSA misrepresented surveillance operations three times in less than three years.
Source: Bloomberg News
More than half of the U.S. Senate neglected to attend a Thursday briefing meant to specifically address concerns about recently revealed National Security Agency programs.
Only 47 of 100 senators attended the briefing. It was scheduled in response to lawmakers who claimed they had not been briefed on the NSA’s surveillance programs.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., made a point of recessing the Senate for an hour on Thursday, saying it was so no one would have an excuse for missing the briefing.
"For senators to complain that, 'I didn't know this was happening,' we've had many, many meetings that have been both classified and unclassified that members have been invited to," Reid told reporters.
Chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee Dianne Feinstein was clearly frustrated by the lack of attendance.
"We have discussed this, we have voted on this in committee, on the floor," Feinstein said. "People should go out and see how the program is set up, see how it's conducted, ask questions, come to the briefings. It's hard to get this story out. Even now we have this big briefing — we've got Alexander, we've got the FBI, we've got the Justice Department, we have the FISA Court there, we have Clapper there — and people are leaving."
Yesterday Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) revealed that her "assault weapon" ban will not be part of the gun control bill that Senate Democrats plan to offer next month. Although her bill still can be offered as an amendment, Politico reports, "its exclusion from the package makes what was already an uphill battle an almost certain defeat."
At the risk of reading too much into this delightful development, I count it as a victory not just for the Second Amendment but for rationality in lawmaking.
As a comparison of the testimony pro and con readily reveals, supporters of Feinstein's bill never offered a plausible, let alone persuasive, explanation for the distinction she drew between the guns she deemed "legitimate" and the dreaded "assault weapons" she sought to ban.
The closer you looked at the bill, the less sense it made, a fact that Feinstein tried to paper over by encouraging people to conflate semi-automatic, military-style rifles with the machine guns carried by soldiers.
That flagrant fraud sufficed to win passage of the federal "assault weapon" ban that expired in 2004 (which was also sponsored by Feinstein), and it continues to influence public opinion.
But this time around it was not enough to obscure the absurdity of Feinsten's attempt to distinguish between good and evil guns by reference to irrelevant features such as barrel shrouds and adjustable stocks.
With no evidence or arguments to offer, Feinstein despicably invoked dead, "dismembered" children in a transparent bid to short-circuit logical thought. I savor her richly deserved defeat.
The exchange between Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) about the constitutionality of her proposed ban on "assault weapons" at yesterday's Senate Judiciary Committee meeting nicely illustrated a familiar pattern in which people who favor new gun restrictions respond to challenges with emotion-laden non sequiturs. Feinstein, who admonished Cruz for treating her like "a sixth-grader," later told CNN's Wolf Blitzer, "I just felt patronized. I felt he was somewhat arrogant about it." If you watch the video at the end of this post, you can judge for yourself whether Cruz seemed patronizing or arrogant.
But the question he posed was perfectly fair: Given that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to arms, just as the First Amendment protects an individual right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, isn't telling people they may not possess certain guns analogous to telling them they may not possess certain books?
In both cases, people retain most of the right guaranteed by the Constitution, but in the First Amendment context that has never been deemed enough for a restriction to pass muster. Feinstein proudly cites the list of more than 2,000 gun models specifically exempted from her ban as evidence that it does not violate the Second Amendment, which Cruz suggested is rather like publishing a list of officially permitted titles as evidence that a book ban does not not violate the First Amendment.
Feinstein could have responded by citing a constitutionally relevant distinction between the guns she wants to ban and the guns she would allow, but since there is no such distinction she resorted to bluster:
Let me just make a couple of points in response. One, I'm not a sixth-grader. Senator, I've been on this committee for 20 years. I was a mayor for nine years. I walked in. I saw people shot. I've looked at bodies that had been shot with these weapons. I've seen the bullets that implode [sic]. In Sandy Hook, youngsters were dismembered.
Look, there are other weapons....I'm not a lawyer, but after 20 years I've been up close and personal to the Constitution. I have great respect for it. This doesn't mean that weapons of war— And the Heller decision clearly points out three exceptions, two of which are pertinent here.
And so I, you know, it's fine if you want to lecture me on the Constitution. I appreciate it. Just know I've been here for a long time. I've passed on a number of bills. I've studied the Constitution myself. I'm reasonably well-educated, and I thank you for the lecture.
Incidentally, this [bill] does not prohibit—you used the word prohibit—it exempts 2,271 weapons. Isn't that enough for the people in the United States? Do they need a bazooka? Do they need other high-powered weapons that military people use to kill in close combat? I don't think so. So I come from a different place than you do. I respect your views; I ask you to respect my views.
Respecting Feinstein's views is a tall order, given the disjointed, utterly illogical way in which she defends them. Much of her response was not a response at all; it merely reiterated Cruz's point that her bill prohibits (yes, prohibits) certain guns while exempting others. His question was why that approach is acceptable in the Second Amendment context when it wouldn't be in legislation impinging on First Amendment rights. As for explaining the distinction between prohibited and permitted weapons, Feinstein simply repeats the long-running lie that there are functionally important differences between the two categories, when in fact her criteria are mainly cosmetic, having little or nothing to do with a gun's usefulness to a mass murderer or ordinary criminal. She falsely asserts that semiautomatic "assault weapons" are the same as the machine guns carried by soldiers and even suggests they are akin to bazookas.
It is not clear what "three exceptions" Feinstein had in mind when she referred to District of Columbia v. Heller, the 2008 decision in which the Supreme Court recognized that the Second Amendment protects an individual right to arms. Writing for the majority, Justice Antonin Scalia did say that "nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial sale of arms." Those are three things, but Feinstein's bill has nothing to do with any of them. Scalia also mentioned "the historical tradition of prohibiting the carrying of 'dangerous and unusual weapons.'" But so-called assault weapons, which are among the most popular rifles in America, are not unusual, and Feinstein has never explained in what sense they are especially dangerous—why, for example, a perfectly legitimate gun become an intolerable threat to public safety when you add a barrel shroud or an adjustable stock. In fact, a general principle endorsed by Heller—that the Second Amendment applies to weapons "in common use for lawful purposes"—implies that Feinstein's bill, as Cruz suggested, is unconstitutional.
The rest of Feinstein's argument takes the following form: I've seen people shot; therefore my bill is constitutional. Or as she put it to Blitzer, "When you come from where I've come from and [seen] what [I've] seen, when [you've] found a dead body and put your finger in bullet holes, you really realize the impact of weapons." A legislator who considers such experiences and feelings to be a sound and sufficient basis for passing any law, let alone a law that abridges a fundamental right, is a public menace. Which is why this was the scariest thing Feinstein said during her scolding of Cruz: "I've been on this committee for 20 years."
During a hearing on the assault weapons ban in the Senate Judiciary Committee (which was approved along party lines) Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) had a few questions about the Bill of Rights for Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who reminded the junior senator from Texas that she is not a sixth grader.
Watch the video of the exchange below:Watch More News Videos at ABC | Technology News | Celebrity News
The automated transcript of the exchange is below via ABC news (I have added the names of Cruz and Feinstein to indicate who was speaking but have otherwise not altered the transcript):
Cruz: Seems to me that all of us should begin as our foundational document. With the constitution. And the Second Amendment in the bill of rights provides -- the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.
The term the right of the people. When the framers included in the bill of rights they used it as a term of -- that same phrase the right of the people is found in the First Amendment. The right of the people to peaceably assemble and to petition their government for redress of grievances it's also found in the Fourth Amendment the right of the people to be free.
From unreasonable searches and seizures. And and the question that I would pose. To the senior senator from California is which -- deem it consistent with the bill of rights.
For congress to engage in the same endeavor that we are contemplating doing with the Second Amendment. In the context of the first or Fourth Amendment namely. Would she consider it constitutional for congress to specify that the First Amendment shall apply only to the following books.
And shall not apply to the books that congress has deemed. Outside the protection of the bill of rights likewise. Which she think that the fourth amendment's protection against such searches and seizures.
Could properly apply only to the following specified individuals. And not to the individuals. That congress is deemed.
Outside the protection of the -- -- he'll never question.
Feinstein: Let me just make a couple of points in response. One I'm not a sixth -- Senator -- been on this committee for twenty years.
I was a mayor for nine years I walked -- I saw people shot I've looked at bodies that have been shot with these weapons. -- seen the bullets that implode. In in sandy hook youngsters were dismembered.
Look there are other weapons. I'd been up I'm I'm not a lawyer. But after twenty years I'd been up close and personal to the constitution.
I have great respect for. This doesn't mean that weapons of war and the Heller decision. Clearly points out three exceptions.
Two of which are pertinent here. And sell -- You yet you know army is flying while lecture me on the constitution. I appreciated just know I've been here for a long time.
-- passed on a number of bills a study the constitution myself -- reasonably well educated. And I thank you for the lecture incidentally. This does not prohibit.
You used the word prohibit it exempts. 2271. Weapons.
Is -- add enough for the people in the United States. -- mr. -- and need a bazooka.
Do they need. Other high powered weapons that military people used to kill in close combat I don't think so. So I come from a different place than you do.
I respect your views I ask you to respect my views. Senator -- want to apologize to you he sort of got my dander up. And that happens on occasion.
Today (three weeks late!) Sen. Dianne Feinstein finally followed through on her threat to introduce a new federal ban on "assault weapons." Or so news reports claim. So far I have not been able to locate an actual bill, and The Washington Post reports that Feinstein was still fiddling with the text yesterday. There is no link to the bill on Feinstein's website, and the lines at her office are too busy for me to get through, presumably because many other people are wondering where the hell the bill is.
So for now all I have to go on is the summary that her office posted in December, plus the details that her aides have divulged to the press.
The bill bans the manufacture and sale of more than 100 guns by name, including the Bushmaster rifle that Adam Lanza used to murder 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, last month. That may seem emotionally satisfying, but it would have been equally logical to ban the car he drove to the school.
After all, had he not been able to reach the school, the massacre never would have happened. Even if the particular model of car that Lanza used to commit his crimes had been unavailable, of course, he could have driven a different, equally effective car. Yet for people who think like Dianne Feinstein, it is inconceivable that such substitution might occur with guns as well as cars.
In addition to the specifically listed guns, Feinstein's bill, like the "assault weapon" ban that expired in 2004 (which she also sponsored), covers guns that accept detachable magazines and have military-style features such as pistol grips, folding stocks, and flash suppressors. But while a rifle needed two military-style features to qualify as an "assault weapon" under the old law, it needs only one under the new bill.
That might count as an improvement if these features had anything to do with the ability to kill defenseless schoolchildren and moviegoers, but they don't. Judging from her office's summary, here are the features Feinstein considers especially menacing: pistol grips, folding stocks, thumbhole stocks, and grenade launchers (not very useful unless you have grenades, which are already illegal for civilians).
This sort of legislation makes sense only to people who don't understand what it does. The folks at CNN, for example, who put this headline on their story about Feinstein's press conference: "Feinstein Proposes New Ban on Some Assault Weapons." Since "assault weapons" are defined by law, how is it possible for the law that defines them to cover only some while missing others? In case that's not confusing enough, CNN adds that "not all of the weapons in the bill meet the technical definition of assault weapons." What "technical definition"? It can't be Feinstein's, since any gun covered by her bill is an "assault weapon" by (arbitrary) definition. Maybe CNN corresponents Dana Bash and Tom Cohen mean that Feinstein's definition is different from Connecticut's, which is essentially the same as the old federal definition; or California's, which is broader; or New York's, which is based on a somewhat different list of military-style features. More likely, they do not know what they mean. Evidence for the latter conclusion:
Supporters of more gun control acknowledge the constitutional right to bear arms, but argue that rifles capable of firing multiple rounds automatically or semi-automatically exceed the reasonable needs of hunters and other gun enthusiasts.
It is amazing that, a quarter of a century after California passed the first "assault weapon" ban, journalists who cover this issue still think such laws are 1) aimed at machine guns, 2) aimed at all semiautomatics, or 3) both, as Bash and Cohen seem to believe. But maybe we should not be too hard on them. After all, President Obama, who supports Feinstein's bill, suffers from a similar misconception.
Even if you accept Feinstein's false premise that there is something especially assaulty or murdery about the guns she wants to ban, her bill would not actually get rid of them, since millions of existing "assault weapons" would remain in circulation. Feinstein says her aim is to "dry up the supply of these weapons over time." But guns are durable products that remain usable for decades, not a puddle that evaporates when the sun comes up. Feinstein claims her bill will "help end the mass shootings that have devastated countless families and terrorized communities." How exactly will it do that?