Published time: June 11, 2013 14:53
“Such methods are in demand. But you can’t just listen to the phone call in Russia; you need a special order from court. This is how this should be done in civilized society while tackling terrorism with the use of any technical means. If it is in the framework of the law, then it’s ok. If not it is unacceptable,” Putin said answering the question of RT’s Editor-in-Chief Margarita Simonyan. Commenting on Obama’s statement that “You can’t have 100 per cent security and 100 per cent privacy,” Putin disagreed, saying it is possible if done within the law.
Russia said it could consider the possibility of granting political asylum to 29-year-old Edward Snowden, if such request is made. The ex-CIA worker disclosed the existence of PRISM, the National Security Agency’s (NSA) massive data-mining surveillance program, to The Guardian.
“If we receive such a request, we will consider it,” President Vladimir Putin’s press secretary Dmitry Peskov said.
By Tom Blumer | June 09, 2013 | 16:59
Although there are stories at Fox News and the Daily Caller, there appears to be almost no interest on the part of the establishment press in covering the Treasury Department’s failure to report over 99% of its conference costs when Oklahoma Republican Senator Tom Coburn asked for an itemized listing a year ago.
The Politico, the repository for stories which cause Democrats and the left discomfort that the rest of the press would prefer to ignore (“Oh, the Politico did something with it, so we don’t have to”), buried the item in a “Morning Tax” report Thursday. Writer Lauren French held off as long as she possibly could presenting how the $50 million in omitted IRS costs dwarfed the measly $500,000 which was reported (paragraph breaks added by me; bolds are mine throughout this post):
Coburn questions incomplete disclosure from Treasury
MORE MISSED DISCLOSURES. The inspector general audit detailing the nearly $50 million the IRS spent on conferences shocked members of Congress. But none more than Sen. Tom Coburn.
That’s because the Oklahoma Republican had already been told by the Treasury Department of each conference the department held from 2005 to 2012 — and that response did not mention any of the 200 IRS conferences included in the IG report.
The Treasury, responding from a 2012 request from Coburn, said it hosted only five conferences with more than 50 staffers and the cost for the events were under $500,000. Now Coburn is asking Treasury Secretary Jack Lew to explain the discrepancy.
June 07, 2013
Neil Munro, White House Correspondent
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A clear majority of independents, and even a plurality of Democrats, believe high-ranking IRS officials were aware of the agency’s harassment of conservatives’ political organizing, according to a new Gallup poll.The poll’s results are risky for Obama, whose political approval rate has remained relatively high, despite the lousy economy, because of his relatively high personal ratings.
Sixty-two percent of adults disapprove of his handling of the IRS scandal, said the Gallup poll. Only 32 percent of adults approve of his reaction to the scandal.
If his approval ratings falls, he’ll have even more difficulty accomplishing his top political goals. Those goals include passage of an immigration bill and winning a Democratic majority in the House.
Fifty-seven percent of independents say high IRS officials were “aware of conservative targeting,” said the Gallup poll, released Friday. Only 23 percent believe the “knowledge [was] limited to IRS employees in one office.”
Published May 31, 2013
What started as a scandal over the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups has broadened, with lawmakers and other critics now questioning whether other kinds of organizations were unfairly flagged for additional scrutiny.
Rep. Sam Graves, R-Mo., chairman of the House Small Business Committee, wrote a letter to Acting IRS Commissioner Daniel Werfel on Friday asking a series of questions about the agency’s audit practices for small businesses.
He made no specific allegation, but said that lawmakers’ investigations to date prompted the letter.
“(Congressional) investigations have only raised more questions as to the extent these practices may have extended beyond conservative groups,” Graves wrote.
Indeed, the scope of the IRS’ heavy auditing and scrutiny appears to go beyond Tea Party groups.
Published May 23, 2013
Republican Rep. Darrell Issa declared Thursday that the embattled IRS official who refused to testify Wednesday had no right to do so, and is now looking to haul her back before his committee.
The chairman of the House oversight committee made the call after consulting with attorneys about IRS official Lois Lerner’s bizarre appearance before the panel on Wednesday. Lerner, the head of the exempt organizations division which oversaw the controversial targeting of conservative groups, caused confusion Wednesday morning when she pleaded the Fifth and refused to answer questions — but also delivered an opening statement in which she asserted her innocence.
Though Issa dismissed her from the hearing room, he questioned at the time whether she had waived her rights by delivering the statement. A spokesman told Fox News on Thursday that Issa had reached a decision.
“After consulting with counsel, Chairman Issa has concluded that Ms. Lerner’s 5th amendment assertion is no longer valid,” spokesman Ali Ahmad said. “She remains under subpoena, the Committee is looking at recalling her for testimony.”
Issa, citing the concerns over Lerner’s comments, never actually adjourned the hearing — where other current and former Treasury and IRS officials testified. He only called it into recess. The thinking among Republicans is that they can still call her back to testify.
WASHINGTON – Lois Lerner, head of the IRS tax exempt organizations division, told the House Oversight Committee that she had done nothing wrong before invoking her Fifth Amendment right to remain silent and not testify.
“I have not done anything wrong,” Lerner said in a brief opening statement. “I have not broken any laws, I have not violated any IRS rules and regulations, and I have not provided false information to this or any other congressional committee.”
Lerner said she “would very much like to answer the committees questions today,” but that her counsel had advised her not to testify, in light of the Department of Justice criminal investigation into the IRS’s targeting of conservative groups for extra scrutiny.
Because she was taking the Fifth, Lerner said, “I know that some people will assume I’ve done something wrong. I have not.”
Rep. Darrell Issa, chairman of the committee, subsequently dismissed Lerner from the hearing.
May 16, 2013
President Barack Obama dismissed calls for the appointment of a special prosecutor to investigate the IRS scandal, and evaded a question asking if White House officials knew of the IRS targeting of conservative political groups.
“I can assure that I certainly did not know anything about the [inspector general] report before the IG report had been leaked through the press,” he told reporters during a Thursday lunchtime press conference held in the White House Rose Garden.
Obama’s evasion will likely spur public suspicions that White House officials knew about, or even supported, the IRS targeting.
April 18, 2013
The FBI is now sharing the photos with the public but the New York Post ran several photos that they linked to the investigation Thursday.
In the photos being distributed by law-enforcement officials, one of the men is carrying a blue duffel bag. The other is wearing a black backpack in the first photo, taken at 10:53 a.m., but it is not visible in the second, taken at 12:30 p.m, the Post reported.
“The attached photos are being circulated in an attempt to identify the individuals highlighted therein,” said an e-mail obtained by The Post. “Feel free to pass this around to any of your fellow agents elsewhere.”
Authorities know the names of the two men, but do not have enough evidence to make an arrest for Monday’s attack, which killed three and wounded 176, sources told the Post.
Fox said a reporter for the network had seen the photos and called them “clear.”
Joseph Menn and Deborah Charles
Posted: March 21, 2013
The U.S. government is expanding a cybersecurity program that scans Internet traffic headed into and out of defense contractors to include far more of the country’s private, civilian-run infrastructure.
As a result, more private sector employees than ever before, including those at big banks, utilities and key transportation companies, will have their emails and Web surfing scanned as a precaution against cyber attacks.
Under last month’s White House executive order on cybersecurity, the scans will be driven by classified information provided by U.S. intelligence agencies — including data from the National Security Agency (NSA) — on new or especially serious espionage threats and other hacking attempts. U.S. spy chiefs said on March 12 that cyber attacks have supplanted terrorism as the top threat to the country.
The Department of Homeland Security will gather the secret data and pass it to a small group of telecommunication companies and cyber security providers that have employees holding security clearances, government and industry officials said. Those companies will then offer to process email and other Internet transmissions for critical infrastructure customers that choose to participate in the program.
DHS as the middleman
By using DHS as the middleman, the Obama administration hopes to bring the formidable overseas intelligence-gathering of the NSA closer to ordinary U.S. residents without triggering an outcry from privacy advocates who have long been leery of the spy agency’s eavesdropping.
The telecom companies will not report back to the government on what they see, except in aggregate statistics, a senior DHS official said in an interview granted on condition he not be identified.
“That allows us to provide more sensitive information,” the official said. “We will provide the information to the security service providers that they need to perform this function.” Procedures are to be established within six months of the order.
The administration is separately seeking legislation that would give incentives to private companies, including communications carriers, to disclose more to the government. NSA Director General Keith Alexander said last week that NSA did not want personal data but Internet service providers could inform the government about malicious software they find and the Internet Protocol addresses they were sent to and from.
“There is a way to do this that ensures civil liberties and privacy and does ensure the protection of the country,” Alexander told a congressional hearing.
Fears grow of destructive attack
In the past, Internet traffic-scanning efforts were mainly limited to government networks and Defense Department contractors, which have long been targets of foreign espionage.
But as fears grow of a destructive cyber attack on core, non-military assets, and more sweeping security legislation remained stalled, the Obama administration opted to widen the program.
Last month’s presidential order calls for commercial providers of “enhanced cybersecurity services” to extend their offerings to critical infrastructure companies. What constitutes critical infrastructure is still being refined, but it would include utilities, banks and transportation such as trains and highways.
Under the program, critical infrastructure companies will pay the providers, which will use the classified information to block attacks before they reach the customers. The classified information involves suspect Web addresses, strings of characters, email sender names and the like.
Not all the cybersecurity providers will be telecom companies, though AT&T is one. Raytheon said this month it had agreed with DHS to become a provider, and a spokesman said that customers could route their traffic to Raytheon after receiving it from their communications company.
As the new set-up takes shape, DHS officials and industry executives said some security equipment makers were working on hardware that could take classified rules about blocking traffic and act on them without the operator being able to reverse-engineer the codes. That way, people wouldn’t need a security clearance to use the equipment.
Civil liberties implications
The issue of scanning everything headed to a utility or a bank still has civil liberties implications, even if each company is a voluntary participant.
Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, said that the executive order did not weaken existing privacy laws, but any time a machine acting on classified information is processing private communications, it raises questions about the possibility of secret extra functions that are unlikely to be answered definitively.
“You have to wonder what else that box does,” Tien said.
One technique for examining email and other electronic packets en route, called deep packet inspection, has stirred controversy for years, and some cybersecurity providers said they would not be using that. In deep packet inspection, communication companies or others with network access can examine all the elements of a transmission, including the content of emails.
“The signatures provided by DHS do not require deep packet inspection,” said Steve Hawkins, vice president at Raytheon’s Intelligence and Information Systems division, referring further questions to DHS.
The DHS official said the government is still in conversations with the telecom operators on the issue.
The official said the government had no plans to roll out any such form of government-guided close examination of Internet traffic into the communications companies serving the general public.
Copyright 2013 Thomson Reuters.