27 January 2010

Obama quietly continues to defend Bush's terror policies | McClatchy

Obama quietly continues to defend Bush's terror policies | McClatchy
WASHINGTON — Although the FBI has acknowledged it improperly obtained thousands of Americans' phone records for years, the Obama administration continues to assert that the bureau can obtain them without any formal legal process or court oversight.

The FBI revealed this stance in a newly released report, troubling critics who'd hoped the bureau had been chastened enough by its own abuses to drop such a position.

In further support of the legal authority, however, the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel backed the FBI in a written opinion issued this month.

The opinion by the OLC — the section that wrote the memos that justified enhanced interrogation techniques during the last administration — appears to be yet another sign that the Obama administration can be just as assertive as Bush's in claiming sweeping and controversial anti-terrorism powers.

The Justice Department's watchdog, the inspector general, said the OLC opinion has "significant policy implications that need to be considered by the FBI, the Department, and the Congress."

"The FBI says that this kind of activity is in the past," said Michael German, a former FBI agent who's now the American Civil Liberties Union's policy counsel. "But if they're saying that they have a continuing legal authority that means it's not in the past."

In another similarity to Bush era-legal decisions to keep legal theories under wraps, Obama's Justice Department refused to release to McClatchy the OLC opinion, despite the administration's vow to be more open than its predecessors.

The little-noticed revelation about the OLC opinion and the FBI's legal position appears in a heavily redacted section of an inspector general's report released Wednesday.

In the report, Inspector General Glenn Fine concluded the FBI committed egregious violations of the law when it obtained thousands of telephone records without court oversight or through any formal legal process.

The report described a "casual" environment in which FBI agents and employees of telecom companies treated Americans' telephone records so cavalierly that one senior FBI counter-terrorism official said getting access to them was as easy as "having an ATM in your living room."

Yet it also stated that "the OLC agreed with the FBI that under certain circumstances (word or words redacted) allows the FBI to ask for and obtain these records on a voluntary basis from the providers, without legal process or a qualifying emergency."

FBI and Justice Department officials refused to comment on that assertion.

In a letter sent Friday, Sens. Russ Feingold, D-Wis., Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, demanded that Attorney General Eric Holder release a copy of the memo.

"Although much of the information about the OLC opinion is redacted in the public version of the (inspector general) report, the opinion appears to have important implications for the rights of Americans," the senators wrote.

FBI Director Robert Mueller has said that the informal practice of requesting telephone records as described in the report was stopped in 2006 when he found out about it from the inspector general.

Since then, it appears the bureau now refrains from using the authority it continues to assert, according to another heavily redacted section of the inspector general's report.

"However, that could change, and we believe appropriate controls on such authority should be considered now, in light of the FBI's past practices and the OLC opinion," Fine warned.

Privacy and open government advocates called on the Justice Department to release the opinion outright.

"There's a tremendous mystery as to what this legal basis is," said Kurt Opsahl, senior staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a nonprofit that advocates privacy protections for technology. "It does not seem like a legal justification should be a national security secret."

Last March, Attorney General Eric Holder released Bush administration OLC memos justifying interrogation methods that Bush's Justice Department had refused to release.

"It is my goal to make OLC opinions available when possible while still protecting national security information and ensuring robust internal executive branch debate and decision-making," he said at the time.

Such rhetoric hasn't necessarily translated into action, however, according to the Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, an open-government group. CREW released a report this week that criticized the Obama administration for recent decisions to withhold information.

"Judging by CREW's interactions with various federal agencies over the past year, the promise of transparency and openness has not translated into new government-wide . . . policies," the group said.

The American Civil Liberties Union, meanwhile, filed a lawsuit Friday to try to compel the Justice Department to make public a report from Justice's Office of Professional Responsibility that examines possible ethics violations by lawyers who wrote the interrogation memos.

Holder had said in late November the report was finished and would be released soon.

Friday was also the deadline for executive branch agencies to release certain "high-value" data as part of President Obama's open government directive. Open government experts, however, said it remains to be seen how useful the information will be since the agencies themselves are determining what to divulge.

As of Friday afternoon, for example, the IRS had released its files tracking citizens' changes of addresses and the Department of Housing and Urban Development posted federal housing inspection data.

15 January 2010

Rush Accused of not wanting donations to go to Haiti

Media Tweaked: "Light-Skinned" Remark Pinned on Rush, Not Reid
January 14, 2010

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RUSH: To Paducah, Kentucky. This is April. That is one of my all-time, top ten favorite female names. April, thank you for calling. Nice to have you with us. Hello.

CALLER: Thank you, Rush. I'm glad that you chose to have me on today.

RUSH: Yes?

CALLER: This is kind of belated, but I just have a question for you.

RUSH: Yes, ma'am? Yes, ma'am?

CALLER: Where in your right mind do you get the cojones to just completely -- I don't know, I guess -- dismiss a tragedy of possibly a hundred thousand people dead in Haiti? You're -- you're going around discouraging people to send donations because we already donated to Haiti and it's called the US income tax; and Obama, the president of our United States -- your president as well, whether you like it or not.

RUSH: Where did you...?

CALLER: -- you're saying --

RUSH: Where did you hear that I discouraged donations to Haiti?

CALLER: Uh, I read it in, uh, a news thing called the Huffington Post, but that's not the point. I was going to finish my sentence if that's okay with you.

RUSH: Well, but what you just said is a lie. They reported a lie. I did not discourage donations to Haiti.

CALLER: Okay. Well, um, actually the point I was getting to, whether or not you said that -- which actually I believe you did. But...

RUSH: No, it's not "whether or not." That matters. I mean you call here and ask, "Where do I get off suggesting that we don't donate to Haiti because we do in the income tax?" and I tell you I said that, but I also said private donations are going to be much better than a government donation. They're all going, go to the Red Cross, do other things, don't go through the government. It's just going to go through hands and bureaucracies and a dollar is going to end up being 30 cents by the time they get through with it. I did not say, "Don't make donations." That's not a "whether or not" thing. That's why you called.

CALLER: Calm down.

RUSH: Finish your sentence.

CALLER: Calm down. I planned on it, but actually I... Keep denying that, but what is this you were saying about our president of the United States trying to just basically establish credibility in the black community among white (sic) and dark-skinned African-Americans? And why do you, like... After saying that, why would you call yourself a patriot?

RUSH: All right. Now, this is funny. This was our Media Tweak of the Day yesterday, April. You know, what we do here on this program is, purposely, play the media like violin, like a Stradivarius. And I love tweaking them. I love irritating them, and I love upsetting them and all you do is take words uttered by liberals and apply them to current events. It was Harry Reid who looked at Obama and said he's a "light-skinned" guy that "doesn't speak in a Negro dialect."

CALLER: I'm not talking about Harry Reid.

RUSH: Well, I was.

CALLER: I'm talking about you.

RUSH: I was. You see, this is the point. You didn't listen to the program. You're reading people who take what I say out of context precisely to create this sense of outrage that you have.


RUSH: In fact, I want you to listen to something with me. Before I said all of this I made a prediction, because this was my Media Tweak of the Day -- and it's getting too easy. I mean, you're illustrating how easy it is to outrage these people. I enjoy it. This is a great success. When people start squealing like pigs is when I know I've hit a home run. This is what I said yesterday.

RUSH ARCHIVE: Before this week is out, I will be the one who uttered the words "light-skinned" and "doesn't speak the Negro dialect when he doesn't want to." I'll be the one that said it. Before the week is out I'll be the one that said it, not Harry Reid, and they'll be asking, "Why have you not condemned Rush Limbaugh for what he said (in repeating what Harry Reid said)?" and Harry Reid will condemn me from the Senate floor!

RUSH: And then I proceeded to suggest that Obama is going to be giving aid to both light-skinned and dark-skinned Negroes in Haiti, just designed to get the reaction I got -- and it worked. The people that listen to this program laugh and chuckle every day at this stuff, because we're just needling the media. They talk about me all the time and I can create it any time I want. It's made you mad, and you believe things they take out of context that don't completely say what I fully said, and you get mad.

CALLER: Okay, so you're basically evading the second part of my question. You're not going to tell me why you decided to go around saying something, like, a tragedy that's happened to hundreds of thousands of people, who are suffering.

RUSH: No, I'm not evading it at all. If I said it I meant to say it, and I do believe that everything is political to this president. Everything this president sees is a political opportunity, including Haiti, and he will use it to burnish his credentials with minorities in this country and around the world, and to accuse Republicans of having no compassion. I went further than that even. I'll have to tell you what else I said after the break if you want to hold on.


RUSH: We go back now to April in Paducah. I had to interrupt you because we had a hard break and I couldn't miss it. What is it you were going to say?

CALLER: Well, if I remember correctly I was about to go say, like, I've been trying to get you to explain to me, at least -- if not the entire country listening to your show right now -- what...? Like what... Why...? It doesn't sound like the president is making this Haiti donation business a political thing. It sounds like you are. You're just... Uh, you brought up a completely inane, baseless point about establishing credibility in the light- and dark-skinned black communities, and, like, there's no reason for that. There's, like --

RUSH: Now, April, I must ask a serious question: Do you ever listen to my program or do you hear about it in places like the Huffington Post?

CALLER: Um... I... When I'm upstairs in the bedroom I'll have the radio on and I like to listen to some local stations. So, yes, I have heard your show.

RUSH: All right.

CALLER: And I've heard dozens and clips and quotes that you've said and most of the time I'm absolutely disgusted with you. I'll be perfectly honest with you.

RUSH: I see. Okay, now that we've established that you listen sometimes and you're absolutely disgusted. Let me ask you a question. Have you ever heard of the Democrat Party and President Obama politicizing a natural disaster?

CALLER: Have I ever heard of them politicizing...?

RUSH: Yeah, has that ever happened? Has Barack Obama and the Democrat Party ever politicized a natural disaster?

CALLER: Umm, well, this is the -- at least if you're speaking specifically about President Obama, this is the first natural disaster that we've had on, uh -- on his term. So...

RUSH: We had a natural disaster when he was Senator. It doesn't matter whether he was president or not. I said the Democrat Party and President Obama, as a Senator, certainly politicized Hurricane Katrina. You see, the difference, April, is that I know these people. I know who they are and I love to tweak them. I love to tweak the media. I predicted yesterday... How come there's no outrage, by the way, at Bill Clinton suggesting that Obama's nothing more than a slave when he was trying to get Ted Kennedy to endorse Hillary and he says (doing impression), "Come on! Come on, Ted. You know, a few years ago this guy would be fetching us our coffee." You're not outraged about that because the Huffington Post isn't outraged about it. They probably don't write about it but I talk about all of it.

CALLER: Actually... Uh, are you implying that the Huffington Post as the one and only resource that I watch (sic--read)? I even watch Fox News once in a while.

RUSH: No, no, no, no, no. I'm not implying that.


RUSH: What I'm illustrating here is that you're a blockhead. What I'm illustrating here is that you're a closed-minded bigot who is ill-informed. I am being patient and tolerant and I'm trying to explain this to you, and you're totally closed to it. I'm hitting you with piercing, penetrating logic, and it escapes you -- and it is irritating people like you that I revel in. I absolutely revel in it. I've got 19 sound bites here today, April, of media people going bat manure yesterday over what they think I said. They didn't hear me say it, either. They got it from the Huffington Post or they got it from Media Matters or they got it from someplace else. I did not say don't donate. I did say Obama will use this to help burnish his credentials, 'cause there's no question he will. I'll tell you something else I said, April: It took him three days to go out and talk about the Christmas Day Underwear Bomber. It took him less than 18 hours to get out there and start rallying people about this earthquake.

I'll tell you something else, April. I'm going to make prediction to you, and I'm gonna be right about this. Before the week is out we're going to have to be stories in the Huffington Post and other places that you read pointing out how fast Obama moved into action versus Bush during Hurricane Katrina. To accuse me of politicizing everything is to be ignorant about what I do on this program. I simply react to the left. They're the ones that politicize virtually everything that's happening from health care to terrorism, and I love illustrating absurdity by being absurd. And if you had listened to this program for a modicum of time you would know it. But instead you're a blockhead. You're mind is totally closed. You have tampons in your ears. Nothing is getting through other than the biased crap that you read. So I've had enjoyment here talking to you and illustrating that it's impossible to deal in the truth with you. I appreciate your calling and I appreciate your holding on. I grew up not far from Paducah. If I'd known you were there, I might have stayed.


RUSH: Let me tell you by way of Tony Blankley, a sound bite we played yesterday. What all of this is, is reacting to what I did not say yesterday on this program.

BLANKLEY: The lesson that we learned from this is not that the Senator said anything particularly remarkable, but that when conservatives say something equally unremarkable, that the feigned outrage drives them out of office; whether it's Rush Limbaugh saying that a black quarterback got better press than had he been white or whether it was Senator Allen who used the word "Macaca" -- whatever that means -- that got six stories on the front page of the Washington Post. The point is, they're not sincere when they're outraged. They're just trying to drive out a political opponent.

RUSH: Exactly. And so all of this outrage that you saw on television last night is feigned. It is fake. I'm not the one that ever used light skinned, dark-skinned. That was Harry Reid! We're laughing at him. We're making fun of him. And they fake all this outrage that I would say this, not even understanding -- and they do understand I was making a joke. They are just feigning outrage to try to take me out, and that's why I do the Media Tweak every day because they're going to bomb out every time they try. I mean, it's just fun.

Read the Background Material...

Wall Street Journal: Harry Reid's Swansong
National Review: Harry Reid and the Offense Game - Rich Lowry
Investor's Business Daily: 'Macaca' A La Reid
NewsBusters: Prior to Harry Reid, Networks Associated Use of 'Negro' Term With Haters
American Thinker: Harry Reid Trashed White America
HotAir: Stephen A. Smith: If Lott Had to Go, Reid has to Go
Newsbusters: Black Professor: If White Republican Said What Reid Did It Would Be Huge News

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