In the USA....
April 25, 2013Russia’s Warning on Bombings Suspect Sets Off a Debate
By SCOTT SHANE, MICHAEL S. SCHMIDT and ERIC SCHMITT.
WASHINGTON — In March 2011, the Russian security service sent a stark warning to the F.B.I., reporting that Tamerlan Tsarnaev was “a follower of radical Islam” who had “changed drastically since 2010” and was preparing to travel to Russia’s turbulent Caucasus to connect with underground militant groups. Six months later, Russia sent the same warning to the C.I.A.
On April 15, law enforcement officials say, Mr. Tsarnaev and his younger brother, Dzhokhar, set off bombs at the Boston Marathon, killing three people and maiming many others.
The Russian warnings to the F.B.I. and the C.I.A. also raised questions about Mr. Tsarnaev’s mother, Zubeidat, according to two senior American officials. The Russians were most concerned about Mr. Tsarnaev because they had information that he planned to travel to Russia, according to one of the officials. “The Russians were concerned that mother and son were very religious and strong believers, and they could be militants if they returned to Russia,” the other official said.
The mother, the officials said, did not fit the profile of a potential extremist, leading American counterterrorism officials to not express much concern about her. They did not set up a travel alert on her, for instance, one of the officials said. But they nonetheless added her name to the Terrorist Identities Datamart Environment, or TIDE database, when Tamerlan’s name was added to it in October 2011, the official said.
Should the Russian warnings — seemingly confirmed in part last year when the counterterrorism task force in Boston learned that Mr. Tsarnaev was traveling to Russia — have permitted American officials to foil the marathon plot? That question emerged on Thursday as the crux of a debate among members of Congress, counterterrorism officials and outside experts about whether, and how, the security system failed.
F.B.I. officials have defended their response to the Russian tip, which prompted agents to interview Mr. Tsarnaev and his parents and check government databases and Internet activity. The bureau found nothing.
On Thursday, some members of Congress and former government officials said Tamerlan Tsarnaev’s six-month visit to Dagestan last year was a missed opportunity to refocus attention on him and potentially prevent the attack. Others suggested that the criticism was 20-20 hindsight, and that the F.B.I.’s performance was reasonable under the circumstances.
The critical moment came in January 2012, when a Customs database sent an alert about Mr. Tsarnaev’s plan to travel to Russia to a Customs agent assigned to the F.B.I.-led Joint Terrorism Task Force in Boston, according to a Congressional official. It is unclear who else saw the information, but it does not appear to have prompted any new scrutiny of Mr. Tsarnaev at the time or when he returned to the United States that July.
“If there was a failure at any time, maybe it was at that point, to get a follow-up interview,” said Representative Mike Rogers, Republican of Michigan and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, a former F.B.I. agent. “But even so, it’s hard to say they did something wrong. Travel in and of itself is not derogatory information, and that area is far down on our priority list.”
Across Capitol Hill, senators from both parties emerged from a classified briefing on the bombings sounding generally supportive of the F.B.I. “I wish there would have been more,” said Senator Jeff Flake, an Arizona Republican on the Intelligence Committee, “but I’m not in a position to say that I would have done it differently.” Senator Carl Levin, a Michigan Democrat who leads the Armed Services Committee, said, “Unless there’s additional information that pops up, I’m not critical of their actions.”
But Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, said in earlier remarks to reporters that the Boston bombing case “is becoming, to me, a case study in system failure.”
“You have Russian intelligence services contacting two agencies within our federal government responsible for our national security, the F.B.I. and the C.I.A.,” he said. “They tell us, ‘We believe you have a radical Islamist in your midst.’ ” Despite the warning and the F.B.I.’s initial follow-up, Mr. Graham said, Mr. Tsarnaev was able to visit Dagestan and return unnoticed, and discuss “killing Americans” openly on the Internet undetected.
Jimmy Gurulé, a former counterterrorism official who teaches at Notre Dame Law School, said the alert about Mr. Tsarnaev’s travel plans should have prompted new attention, since it appeared to give weight to the Russian warning. He said that the authorities should have sought a court warrant to monitor his cellphone and e-mail while he was in Russia. “When he came back to the United States, they should have pulled him out of the Customs line, inspected his belongings, looked at his laptop and cellphone and questioned him about what he had done in Dagestan,” said Mr. Gurulé.
But law enforcement officials said it was unrealistic to expect the F.B.I., which had already taken a hard look at Mr. Tsarnaev, to reopen the case merely because of his travel. The TIDE database has roughly 700,000 names in it, a senior law enforcement official said, and Customs officials get 20 or 30 alerts every day about travel by people in various databases.
In addition, the official said, it would have violated Justice Department guidelines to keep pursuing Mr. Tsarnaev after the initial assessment found no evidence of a crime. “You pursue the original information, come to conclusions,” he said.
The official said that the F.B.I. would certainly have looked at Mr. Tsarnaev again if the Russians had told the bureau that they had developed more information on him during his trip. “That is all that would have taken,” the official said.
One factor in the failure to follow up may have been Mr. Tsarnaev’s ethnicity as a Chechen and his destination, Dagestan, according to both government officials and independent specialists. While those might have set off suspicions in Russia, militants from the Caucasus have generally not targeted the United States.
The authorities would most likely have given Mr. Tsarnaev a closer examination when he returned to the United States if he had traveled to Yemen or Pakistan, where multiple plots against American cities have been hatched.
April 25, 2013Parents Deny Sons’ Guilt and Accuse U.S. of Plot
By DAVID M. HERSZENHORN
MAKHACHKALA, Russia — The parents of the two brothers accused in the bomb attack that killed three people and wounded more than 260 others near the finish line of the Boston Marathon insisted on Thursday that their sons were innocent and had no connections to radical Islamists.
In an outpouring of anguish and anger at a news conference here in the capital of Dagestan, a Russian republic on the Caspian Sea, the brothers’ father, Anzor Tsarnaev, and mother, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, also made accusations of a conspiracy in which the American authorities killed their older son, Tamerlan, after capturing him alive.
Officials in the United States have said that Tamerlan, 26, died after being shot during a standoff with the police in Watertown, Mass., and then run over by a vehicle driven by his younger brother as he escaped. The younger of the brothers, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, 19, was captured and has been charged with using a weapon of mass destruction. He is recovering in a Boston hospital and may face the death penalty if convicted. Officials have also released video showing the brothers near the site of the bombing.
Despite this evidence, and after two days of questioning by Federal Bureau of Investigation agents here, Ms. Tsarnaeva said she could not accept that her sons were guilty.
“No, I don’t — and I won’t,” she said. “Never!”
During an emotional question-and-answer session that lasted nearly an hour, the parents addressed many of the questions that investigators and the American public have been asking in the anxious days after the bombing, declaring that their sons were not religious radicals and were not connected to any militant organizations.
Their answers were a mixture of denials and conspiracy accusations. They seemed exhausted, their grief raw. They expressed concern about Dzhokhar, but did not offer any condolences to the victims in Boston. Ms. Tsarnaeva — who at times sobbed, raised her voice and pounded a table for emphasis — said she was considering giving up her American citizenship.
In one dramatic moment, Ms. Tsarnaeva said the F.B.I. agents who went to the family’s home in Massachusetts to question Tamerlan about his religious views had asked her if she worried that he might commit an act of terrorism.
“Actually they told me, ‘Don’t you think that Tamerlan is being a little bit, you know, like, extreme about religion?’ ” she said. “ ‘Do you think that he would think about organizing some kind of, you know — ’ ”
She broke off and then stumbled over her words. “Probably that was their meaning,” she continued. “Terroristic, terrorism or whatever, aggression.”
“ ‘Do you see any aggression in Tamerlan?’ ” she quoted the agents as saying. “No, I did not.”
She said that in the days after the bombing she saw what she described as video footage on the Internet that showed a man that she said was Tamerlan being put into a police car naked, apparently stripped of his clothes to check for explosives. The next day, she said, she saw gruesome images of his corpse.
“Killed, truly killed,” she said, describing the images. “I wanted to scream, to scream to the whole world: ‘What did you do? What have you done with my son?’ He was alive. Why did they need to kill him? Why not send him to Guantánamo or whatever? Why did they kill him? Why did they have to kill him? They got him alive. He was in their hands.”
The parents said they regretted having lived in the United States but wanted to return soon to see Dzhokhar, though they expressed fears that they would not be allowed to see him until he was in prison.
“Yes, I would prefer not to live in America now. Like, why did I even go there — why?” Ms. Tsarnaeva said, breaking into tears and sobs. “I thought America was going to, like, protect us, our kids. It was going to be safe for any reason. But it happened the opposite. My kids — America took my kids away from me — only America.”
“I don’t know,” she said, regaining her composure. “I am sure that my kids were not involved in anything.”
Mr. Tsarnaev responded sharply to a reporter who asked why Tamerlan had felt that he did not fit in among Americans, once saying he did not have any friends.
“That’s not true,” Mr. Tsarnaev said. “He have a lot of friends, you know. I know these friends, you know.”
Ms. Tsarnaeva jumped in to say that Tamerlan had meant he did not have a best friend. “So it doesn’t mean that he just did not fit in America,” she said.
The parents said the F.B.I. agents who questioned them in the past two days had been most interested in Tamerlan’s six-month visit to Dagestan last year, which they said had been undertaken so that he could obtain a Russian passport.
Although he was born in Russia, Tamerlan had traveled on a passport from Kyrgyzstan, where the family had lived, that was about to expire. They said he needed a Russian passport because he did not have American citizenship.
And while the parents insisted that his visit was focused on trying to get a passport, visiting relatives and helping his father, they confirmed that he worshiped occasionally at a mosque popular among Salafist Muslims. Dagestan has been riven by violence because of a split between Salfists and more tolerant Sufis.
Ms. Tsarnaeva expressed some of her greatest anger when one questioner said Dzhokhar had told officials that the brothers were motivated by an extreme interpretation of Islam. She said Dzhokhar’s lawyers had assured her that he could not yet speak or write.
“Where does this information come from?” she shouted.
Andrew Roth and Viktor Klimenko contributed reporting.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: April 25, 2013
An earlier version of this article misspelled, on one reference, the younger suspect’s first name. It is Dzhokhar, not Dzhokar.
April 25, 2013House Panel Set to Offer Several Immigration Bills
By EMMARIE HUETTEMAN and ASHLEY PARKER
WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee announced Thursday that it would introduce a series of bills beginning this week to overhaul the nation’s immigration system. The move was designed to keep the committee in the middle of the debate over the issue, which is now percolating on Capitol Hill, and to press a bipartisan group in the House that has been working in private on its own broad legislation.
Representative Robert W. Goodlatte, Republican of Virginia and the chairman of the committee, said the first of several proposals in the coming weeks would create a guest worker program for agriculture and require employers to use an electronic verification system to check the immigration status of employees.
Mr. Goodlatte made it clear that his committee’s intention was to jump-start the debate in the House. The bipartisan House group studying immigration, which has been meeting in secret on and off for about four years, has yet to offer its own proposal.
“We think we can help move the process forward by beginning to examine the legislative details of various ideas that members have brought forward,” he said.
Mr. Goodlatte’s announcement is likely to create a sense of urgency among the House group, particularly its Democratic members, to introduce broad legislation. Many Republicans in the House prefer a piecemeal approach, similar to what Mr. Goodlatte is proposing, though Democrats fear that this approach would make it tough for them to win support for a path to legalization — a crucial part of any immigration overhaul, they say.
The announcement came after the Senate Judiciary Committee this week held the last of three hearings on legislation that would tighten border security and offer an eventual path to citizenship for 11 million unauthorized immigrants already here.
Senators John McCain, Republican of Arizona, and Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, both members of the bipartisan group of eight senators who wrote the legislation, said Thursday that they were aiming to win 70 votes in the Senate and hoped to gain the backing of a majority of senators in both parties — a prospect Mr. McCain described as “very doable.”
Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont and the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, announced on Thursday that his committee would begin its markup of the immigration bill on May 9, shortly after Congress returns from its recess. Consideration of the legislation is expected to last for most of May.
“There’s a different mood in the Senate,” Mr. Schumer said. “I hope that our immigration bill sets the model for coming bipartisan agreements.”
“What we have found is, ironically, it may be a little counterintuitive, that the best way to pass immigration legislation is actually a comprehensive bill, because that can achieve more balance and everybody can get much but not all of what they want,” Mr. Schumer said. “And so I think the idea of doing separate bills is just not going to work.”
Mr. Goodlatte emphasized that his committee had not decided what should appear in the final legislation, and he did not dismiss the possibility of offering some kind of legal status. He said the committee would examine the Senate proposal and any proposal from the House group.
“They have been working on this process for a long, long time,” he said, “and we are very hopeful that they can reach a bipartisan agreement on what will be done to address these three major aspects of immigration reform: legal immigration reform, enforcement and what to do about the legal status of the 11 million or more people who are not here lawfully.”
House Democrats remain hopeful that a broad immigration bill will ultimately emerge. “This group has worked long enough that it will work toward producing a good compromise on a total fix to our immigration system — not a partial fix, not a piecemeal fix, but a total fix,” Representative Xavier Becerra, Democrat of California and a member of the House bipartisan group, said on Wednesday.
That group hopes to introduce its legislation by the end of May, aides said. One holdup has been Republican unwillingness to accept the Senate plan for a guest worker program, which has already been endorsed by leading business and labor groups.
“There is reluctance that establishment Republicans like the Chamber of Commerce are cutting deals with big labor,” a House aide said. “That’s not where House Republicans see themselves. They think establishment Republicans are the problem.”
The House group’s legislation will have other differences from the Senate legislation, aides said. The House bill, for instance, will probably offer a 15-year path to citizenship, rather than the 13-year path offered in the Senate plan, though both bills would allow unauthorized immigrants to earn a green card in 10 years.
Mr. Goodlatte pushed back against criticism that the committee was dragging out the process by proposing changes to the system one by one.
“I would point out that the House group, the bipartisan group that’s been negotiating this, has been negotiating it for about four years, so we want to see a product from that group,” he said, “but we recognize — and I’m sure they recognize — how difficult it is to work on this issue, and therefore making sure that we take our time is an important part of this process.”
Sheryl Gay Stolberg contributed reporting.
April 25, 2013Democratic Senators Tell White House of Concerns About Health Care Law Rollout
By ROBERT PEAR
WASHINGTON — Democratic senators, at a caucus meeting with White House officials, expressed concerns on Thursday about how the Obama administration was carrying out the health care law they adopted three years ago.
Democrats in both houses of Congress said some members of their party were getting nervous that they could pay a political price if the rollout of the law was messy or if premiums went up significantly.
President Obama’s new chief of staff, Denis R. McDonough, fielded questions on the issue for more than an hour at a lunch with Democratic senators.
Senator Jeanne Shaheen, Democrat of New Hampshire, who is up for re-election next year, said, “We are hearing from a lot of small businesses in New Hampshire that do not know how to comply with the law.”
In addition, Mrs. Shaheen said, “restaurants that employ people for about 30 hours a week are trying to figure out whether it would be in their interest to reduce the hours” of those workers, so the restaurants could avoid the law’s requirement to offer health coverage to full-time employees.
The White House officials “acknowledged that these are real concerns, and that we’ve got to do more to address them,” Mrs. Shaheen said.
Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa and chairman of the appropriations subcommittee on health care, said he was extremely upset with Mr. Obama’s decision to take money from public health prevention programs and use it to publicize the new law, which creates insurance marketplaces in every state.
“I am greatly disappointed — beyond upset — that the administration chose to help pay for the Affordable Care Act in fiscal year 2013 by raiding the Public Health and Prevention Fund,” Mr. Harkin said.
The administration said it had transferred $332 million from the prevention fund to pay for “education and outreach” activities publicizing the new insurance markets, or exchanges.
To express his displeasure, Mr. Harkin has blocked Senate action on Mr. Obama’s nominee to be administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, Marilyn B. Tavenner. By putting a “hold” on the nomination, aides said, Mr. Harkin hopes to draw the White House into negotiations on the future of the prevention fund, which he has championed.
At Congressional hearings this week, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of health and human services, said it was necessary to tap the prevention fund because Congress had refused to provide money requested by the president for outreach and education activities.
Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of Montana and chairman of the Finance Committee, said last week that the administration deserved “a failing grade” for its efforts to explain the law to the public.
“I just see a huge train wreck coming down,” Mr. Baucus said then.
But after hearing White House officials on Thursday, Mr. Baucus said he was encouraged, and he praised the administration’s efforts to get healthy young people to sign up for insurance coverage.
Senator Benjamin L. Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, said he told White House officials on Thursday that he was concerned about big rate increases being sought by the largest health insurer in his state. The company, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield, has sought increases averaging 25 percent for individual insurance policies that will be sold in the state insurance exchange, and it is seeking increases of about 15 percent for small businesses. The company said the higher premiums reflected costs of complying with the new law.
Senator Cardin said he was also distressed by the administration’s failure to require health insurers to provide affordable coverage of dental services for children. The law lists pediatric dental care as one of 10 categories of “essential health benefits” to be provided by all health plans.
Under a rule issued by the administration, Mr. Cardin said, “there is no guarantee or requirement that families have pediatric dental coverage, and the coverage could be provided in a stand-alone plan with a separate deductible, so that a family with two children might have to pay as much as $1,400 in out-of-pocket costs for dental coverage.”
In that case, he said, many families would go without dental coverage.
Congressional leaders wrestled at the same time with a more parochial concern, health insurance for members of Congress and their aides.
A provision of the 2010 law, sought by a Republican senator, says members of Congress and many of their aides must get their health benefits through the new insurance exchanges. Some lawmakers and their aides are worried that the government may not continue to pay its share of the premiums.
Michael Steel, a spokesman for Speaker John A. Boehner, said this was the “Democrats’ problem to solve.”
But Adam Jentleson, a spokesman for Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the Senate Democratic leader, said, “No legislative fix is necessary.”
April 25, 2013Senators Quietly Seeking New Path on Gun Control
By JEREMY W. PETERS
WASHINGTON — Talks to revive gun control legislation are quietly under way on Capitol Hill as a bipartisan group of senators seeks a way to bridge the differences that led to last week’s collapse of the most serious effort to overhaul the country’s gun laws in 20 years.
Drawing on the lessons from battles in the 1980s and ’90s over the Brady Bill, which failed in Congress several times before ultimately passing, gun control supporters believe they can prevail by working on a two-pronged strategy. First, they are identifying senators who might be willing to change their votes and support a background check system with fewer loopholes.
Second, they are looking to build a national campaign that would better harness overwhelming public support for universal background checks — which many national polls put at near 90 percent approval — to pressure lawmakers.
Senators Joe Manchin III, Democrat of West Virginia, and Patrick J. Toomey, Republican of Pennsylvania, have been talking in recent days about how they could persuade more senators to support their bill to expand background checks for gun buyers, which drew backing from only four Republicans last week.
“We’re going to work it hard,” Mr. Manchin said Thursday, adding that he was looking at tweaking the language of his bill in a way that he believed would satisfy senators who, for example, felt that background checks on person-to-person gun sales would be too onerous for people who live in rural areas far from a sporting goods store.
Those concerns were an issue for Alaska’s senators, Lisa Murkowski, a Republican, and Mark Begich, a Democrat.
Meanwhile, a separate gun measure, an anti-trafficking bill, is the subject of talks between Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, and two Republican senators who voted no on the background check bill. The Republicans, Senators Kelly Ayotte of New Hampshire and Charles E. Grassley of Iowa, are discussing ways they might support the bill, which would criminalize the shipping or transfer of guns to someone who is barred from possessing a firearm.
While the bill on its own falls short of what the families of victims of mass shootings have been pushing Congress to enact — and is therefore less controversial — some Democrats believe it could be a good starting point to build a broader bipartisan compromise.
“I think trafficking can be the base of the bill, the rock on which everything else stands,” Ms. Gillibrand said. “I also think it’s complementary to background checks because, let’s be honest, criminals aren’t going to buy a gun and go through a background check. So if you really want to go after criminals, you have to have to do both.”
Ms. Ayotte said Thursday that she would continue talking with Ms. Gillibrand and was confident that some areas of agreement, on areas like expanding mental health care, could be reached.
“There’s a lot we have agreement on in terms of enforcing our current system,” she said. “And so I certainly think we should look for the common elements, including the mental health piece, which I support as well, and try to move as much of that as possible forward.”
Ms. Ayotte — the only one out of 22 senators on the East Coast north of Virginia who voted against strengthening background checks — has been the target lately of some of the most furious lobbying by gun control proponents, who have inundated local newspapers with letters to the editor denouncing her vote, run radio ads saying she “ignored the will of the people” and swamped her office with phone calls. On Thursday, two receptionists placed one call after another on hold as they politely listened to callers vent and replied, “Thank you for your message.”
Next week when Congress is in recess, gun control groups coordinating with the Obama committee Organizing for Action will be fanning out across the country in dozens of demonstrations at the offices of senators who voted down the background check bill.
As talks moved ahead on Capitol Hill, the White House was pressing on with its own efforts. Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. summoned a group of gun control proponents to his office on Thursday — including representatives from Michael R. Bloomberg’s Mayors Against Illegal Guns, Gabrielle Giffords’s Americans for Responsible Solutions and the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence — and reassured them that the issue had become his highest priority.
The vice president recalled the long struggle to enact the Brady Bill, which established a five-day waiting period to buy a gun. And he told them gun control would become his new campaign to end the Iraq war, according to two participants in the meeting, comparing it to the issue he devoted much of his energy to during President Obama’s first term. The pressure campaign is evidently already starting to take its toll, the vice president added, because several senators have confided to him that they are feeling the backlash from constituents.
Those senators, he added, told him that they needed to be assured there was adequate support for expanded gun control to pass because they did not want to take such a great political risk on something that was doomed to fail. And some of them are already beginning to ask about what tweaks gun control proponents might entertain that could make the bills more palatable, the vice president said.
“It’s not a question of really changing their minds for or against this policy,” one of the meeting’s participants said. “It’s demonstrating that it’s safe to do the right thing and politically unsafe not to.”
******************Obama campaign’s next target: Climate change deniers in Congress
By Suzanne Goldenberg, The Guardian
Thursday, April 25, 2013 21:18 EDT
The campaign group formed to support Barack Obama’s political agenda has launched an initiative to shame members of Congress who deny the science behind climate change.
In an email to supporters on Thursday, Organizing for Action said it was time to call out members of Congress who deny the existence of climate change, saying they had blocked efforts to avoid its most catastrophic consequences.
The email linked to a video mocking Republicans who reject the science on climate change. “Right now, way too many lawmakers in Washington flat-out refuse to face the facts when it comes to climate change,” Jon Carson, executive director of Organizing for Action wrote in the email. “We’re never going to make real progress on this issue unless members of Congress get serious.”
The video mainly features Republican members of the House of Representatives who are notorious for denying the existence of climate change, or positing bizarre notions about its causes.
However, it also includes some national figures such as the Florida senator Marc Rubio and House speaker John Boehner, whose views on climate are not that broadly known. There are no Democrats in the video.
The video was the first foray into climate politics by Organizing for Action, the group which emerged out of Obama’s re-election campaign to promote his second-term legislative agenda.
Until Thursday, the group had focused on gun control, immigration and the budget. Climate change did not even rate its own heading on the OFA website. But Thursday’s video and an accompanying petition campaign suggest that Obama’s allies have now decided that climate change is a mainline political issue.
Obama singled out climate change as one of his priorities at his inauguration and during his first state of the union address.
Since then, however, Obama has failed to offer bold policy proposals to match the sweeping speeches. Last week the New Yorker speculated that Obama may have given up on climate action entirely.
Environmental groups in Washington say that is not at all the case, but admit that other issues have taken precedence in the first months of his second term.
The appearance of the video was seen by some as a sign that Obama’s allies are now ready for a broad grassroots fight on climate politics. A number of environmental organisations have tried similar grassroots efforts – most notably 350.org’s campaign against the Keystone XL pipeline and Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project – but the OFA move represented a new mainstreaming of climate politics.
“What is interesting to me is that it shows that climate is finally becoming a first tier political issue,” said Paul Bledsoe, a political consultant who was President Clinton’s climate advisor. “Every other issue in the first tier always has this kind of grassroots activism behind it, whether it’s the health care bill or immigration.”
But it will be an uphill battle. As the video points out, 240 Republican members of the house signed on to a measure describing climate change as a hoax.
Since Obama was first elected, opposition to climate action has become a core tenet of conservative and Republican party politics. Some Republicans deny any change in the climate, some dispute the burning of fossil fuels is warming the atmosphere. Others accept climate science but oppose broad economy-wide measures to avoid catastrophic climate change.
The video does not bother with those distinctions. However, there is broad cohesion among conservatives in their opposition to climate action – and that will make Obama’s course all the more difficult.
Click to watch the stupidity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=biUc0D6_UPA
guardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media 2013
********Senate committee advances bill for warrantless email searches
By Dominic Rushe, The Guardian
Thursday, April 25, 2013 14:18 EDT
Bipartisan group seeks update to Electronic Communications Privacy Act over concerns of misuse by law enforcement
A bipartisan committee voted Thursday to advance a bill to clamp down on warrantless government searches of email and other private electronic information.
The bill seeks to modify the 1986 Electronic Communications Privacy Act (ECPA) and require government and law enforcement agencies to get a judge’s approval in most cases in order to access electronic communications.
A vote is now expected next month but while the bill has cross-party support law officials, regulators and some senators are pushing for amendments to weaken its impact.
Democratic senator Patrick Leahy, co-sponsor of the bill with Utah’s Republican senator Mike Lee, said: “I think Americans are very concerned about unwanted intrusions into our private lives in cyberspace. There’s no question if someone wants to go into your house and go through your files and draws you are going to need a search warrant. But if you have those same files in the cloud you ought to have the same sense of privacy.”
The ECPA was drawn up before email became a ubiquitous form of communication. It has become a hot topic for tech and civil rights groups. In January Google announced that 68% of requests made by officials for its users’ private data were made under ECPA subpoenas, which, unlike wiretaps or physical search warrants, typically circumvent the need for a judge’s approval. Google said it complies to some degree with 90% of those requests.
Leahy said there was a broad support for the bill in the tech community, on both sides of the House and from liberal and conservative groups.
But other members of the Senate Judiciary Committee expressed concern about the bill. Senator Dianne Feinstein said the committee should “take seriously” the concerns of law enforcement and regulators. Securities and Exchange Committee chairman Mary Jo White, among others, have argued that the bill will hamper its abilities to protect consumers from fraudsters.
Senator Chuck Grassley said that they were setting aside the concerns of law enforcement officials. “Instead it seems a growing distrust of government is driving a significant amount of public opinion these days,” he said. Grassley claimed the email debate was part of a wider concern among the public about government accountability, gun rights and civil liberties.
Grassley said Congress would be “abdicating our responsibilities” if it did not take into consideration the concerns of regulators and law enforcement.
Senator Jeff Sessions said major city chiefs of police, FBI groups, district attorney and others had expressed grave concerns about the bill. “It seems to me these concerns are very real,” he said. “In the real world agents sometime have to do 30, 40, 50 pages documents to get a warrant. It intimidates them and they just don’t try. In cases, particularly terrorism cases, may never be followed up on simply because of that burden”
He said “privacy is very real” but that email was similar to bank records, which can be obtained without a warrant, and that people had a similarly “diminished expectation of privacy” with email.
Leahy said ECPA had been “misused and abused” by law enforcement officials. “There seems to be a feeling in this country, more and more, that because we face threats, as this nation has from the time of its founding, that we somehow give up our rights to privacy. Americans believe in their privacy,” he said.
Leahy said amendments would be put online ahead of the hearing.
© Guardian News and Media 2013