News/Politics 7-8-13

What’s interesting in the news today?

Open thread, as always.

Here’s a bunch to start you off.

First up, who’s in charge of the FISA court? John Roberts. From OutsideTheBeltway.com

“When it comes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which isn’t so much a Court unto itself as it is a rotating group of Federal Judges appointed to hear warrant requests and other matter designated as appropriate for secret proceedings under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, there’s nobody more powerful than Chief Justice John Roberts:

The 11 FISA judges, chosen from throughout the federal bench for seven-year terms, are all appointed by the chief justice. In fact, every FISA judge currently serving was appointed by Roberts, who will continue making such appointments until he retires or dies. FISA judges don’t need confirmation — by Congress or anyone else.

No other part of U.S. law works this way. The chief justice can’t choose the judges who rule on health law, or preside over labor cases, or decide software patents. But when it comes to surveillance, the composition of the bench is entirely in his hands, and, as a result, so is the extent to which the National Security Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation can spy on citizens.”

Which brings us to the next question, who watches the watchers? From PJMedia

“Eric Lichtblau of the New York Times has a shocking scoop on some of the secret decisions made by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that would indicate that there has been a fundamental shift in the government’s attitude toward 4th Amendment protections for American citizens.

A secret body of law has been built since 2010 that gives the government vast powers — all perfectly legal — to snoop on American citizens as long as the surveillance is connected to terrorism or some other national security issue.

The rulings, some nearly 100 pages long, reveal that the court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny, according to current and former officials familiar with the court’s classified decisions.”

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File this one under “Things that make you go Hmmmmm…….”  From ForeignPolicy.com

“The offices of a Dallas law firm representing a high-profile State Department whistleblower were broken into last weekend. Burglars stole three computers and broke into the firm’s file cabinets. But silver bars, video equipment and other valuables were left untouched, according to local Fox affiliate KDFW, which aired security camera footage of the suspected burglars entering and leaving the offices around the time of the incident.

The firm Schulman & Mathias represents Aurelia Fedenisn, a former investigator at the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General. In recent weeks, she raised a slew of explosive allegations against the department and its contractors ranging from illicit drug use, soliciting sexual favors from minors and prostitutes and sexual harassment.

“It’s a crazy, strange and suspicious situation,” attorney Cary Schulman told The Cable. “It’s clear to me that it was somebody looking for information and not money. My most high-profile case right now is the Aurelia Fedenisn case, and I can’t think of any other case where someone would go to these great lengths to get our information.”

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Looks like the Employer regulations for ObamaCare that were put off now have company. Anti-fraud measures have now been put off too. Hey, just like Obama did with his campaign donations, removed anti-fraud protections.

But hey, what could possibly go wrong, right? :roll:  From TheWashingtonExaminer

“One of the biggest administrative hurdles facing Obamacare was the ambitious plan to verify the income and insurance status of applicants for federal health coverage subsidies. In theory, on Oct. 1 of this year, a prospective beneficiary of Obamacare was supposed to be able to visit a website like Orbitz, enter basic information, and wait as multiple state and federal government databases communicated with one another to confirm in real time the applicant’s income level, and then display the level of subsidy to which the applicant was entitled, if any. It was a level of technological sophistication unlike anything ever attempted by the government. Now, with less than three months to go before Obamacare’s health insurance exchanges are set to begin enrolling applicants, Obama’s Department of Health and Human Services is throwing up its hands. Just as it did with the employer mandate, the administration has announced it would delay the implementation of these anti-fraud procedures due to the administrative difficulty.”

“In a regulation released Friday and flagged by Washington Post reporters Sarah Kliff and Sandhya Somashekhar, the administration will now rely on self-reported data. You read that correctly. A man who earns $50,000 per year and gets insurance through his employer could log on to the new government website and say he earns $20,000 and gets no insurance through his employer, and the government would not even attempt to confirm that the information is accurate before forking over generous taxpayer subsidies. It’s a recipe for rampant fraud, which is already widespread in Medicare and Medicaid.

According to the rule as reported by Kliff and Somashekhar, “The exchange may accept the applicant’s attestation regarding enrollment in eligible employer-sponsored plan . . . without further verification” and “the Exchange may accept the attestation of projected annual household income without further verification.””

Gotta love the Friday news dump. ;)

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Since we’re on the subject of debacles from the Obama admin…….  From TheLATimes

“A high-powered rifle lost in the ATF’s Fast and Furious controversy was used to kill a Mexican police chief in the state of Jalisco earlier this year, according to internal Department of Justice records, suggesting that weapons from the failed gun-tracking operation have now made it into the hands of violent drug cartels deep inside Mexico.

Luis Lucio Rosales Astorga, the police chief in the city of Hostotipaquillo, was shot to death Jan. 29 when gunmen intercepted his patrol car and opened fire. Also killed was one of his bodyguards. His wife and a second bodyguard were wounded”

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Continuing with the debacle theme…… From TheHill

“Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) called the ouster of Egyptian President Mohammed  Morsi a coup d’etat and pressed the Obama administration to suspend aid to the  country on Sunday.

“It was a coup and it was the second time in two and a half years that we  have seen the military step in,” McCain said on CBS’s “Face the  Nation.”

“Reluctantly I believe that we have to suspend aid until such time as there is a  new constitution and a free and fair election,” McCain added.”

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And lastly, does Zimmerman walk? We should know by the end of the week. From ABCNews

“Analysis: George Zimmerman Probably Won’t Be Convicted of Murder or Manslaughter — Here’s Why”

“I drew a legal conclusion on “Good Morning America” Saturday that would have surprised the Dan Abrams who covered the George Zimmerman case leading up to, and shortly after, his arrest.

Now that the prosecution’s case against Zimmerman is in, as a legal matter, I just don’t see how a jury convicts him of second degree murder or even manslaughter in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin.”

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2 thoughts on “News/Politics 7-8-13

  1. Re the FISA court and the Bill of Rights, as far as I can tell, there are a few groups on the Right and Left that are actively attempting to correct these violations of the Constitution by protesting and engaging in letter writing campaigns.

    I participated in a national protest in Chattanooga on July 4th to advocate restoring the full functioning of the 4th Amendment. Few people showed up in Chattanooga, but they were from both sides of the aisle–no partisans there. And we did have a good bit of acknowledgment and encouragement from people on the street and vehicles.

    The Snowden leaks have raised the awareness again, but we really do need to convince our congress to make some serious changes in these laws.

    http://www.restorethefourth.net/

  2. Speaking of Snowden…I’ll admit I haven’t read in depth on this issue, but have seen a bit from both sides. On one hand, I am glad that this NSA surveillance has come to light. But on the other hand, I wonder if Snowden, or someone like him, had revealed similar secrets during a Republican administration, would we hail him a hero whistleblower or a traitor?

    Just wondering.

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