The CIA's Inspector General has asked the Justice Department to consider criminally charging CIA agents who spied on a senate committee that was engaged in writing a report that was highly critical of the CIA's use of torture. Senator Mark Udall, who sits on a CIA oversight committee and whose staff was spied on by the CIA alleges that the CIA surveilled overseeing senators and their staff with Obama's knowledge and consent.
In a recent hearing, Senator Ron Wyden asked the CIA director repeatedly whether the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, America's major anti-hacking statute, applied to the CIA, and whether the CIA spied domestically. CIA director John Brennan replied "yes" and "no," respectively. If Udall's allegations are correct, this means that Brennan lied to Congress (in the second instance) and committed a felony (in the first instance).
The report that caused some CIA agents to spy on their bosses was about how the CIA was wasting time, getting nowhere and doing something illegal and cruel when it kidnapped terror suspects and tortured the shit out of them.
Tomorrow, Obama will announce his long-awaited reforms to the NSA. The Electronic Frontier Foundation has produced a score-card (with detailed commentary) describing the minimum set of reforms that would be compatible with the rule of law and a free and fair democracy. It makes a handy crib-sheet to use while you're watching the press-conference -- you can print out one for each of your friends and discuss it around the TV during your NSA press-conference party:
Derek Khanna of Slate reports that the White House is pushing to keep cellphone unlocking illegal, and making the legal act of jailbreaking a crime punishable by imprisonment.
Last week, WikiLeaks made public a portion of a treaty that the White House has been secretly negotiating with other nations and 600 special interest lobbyists. The draft of the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty, which is on intellectual property, shows that HealthCare.gov isn’t the only tech topic on which the Obama administration has some serious explaining to do.
The leaked treaty draft shows that while the White House was championing restoring free market principles to phones, the U.S. proposed that the TPP lock in the process that allowed the Librarian of Congress to rule this technology as illegal through international law. This would make many potential reforms impossible. But the TPP draft doesn’t stop there. It would ban numerous other technologies that have beneficial uses. In particular, the legislation would ensure that jailbreaking -- which is installing a different operating system on your phone, tablet, or e-reader—is illegal.
This treaty has long been shrouded in unprecedented secrecy. Congressional staff, press and general public weren’t allowed to read it; in many cases, even members of Congress were kept in the dark. Meanwhile, special interests were given full access. Now we know why: The White House didn’t want the public to know what was being negotiated in their name.
Here's an Xtranormal Obama explaining the difference between his NSA spying and Bush's NSA spying:
Another important difference between my administration and the Bush administration is that when the Bush administration secretly spied on you, the Bush administration could not point to a single judge willing to say their program was legal. We, on the other hand, can point to such a judge. I'm not going to tell you who this judge is, or why he or she thinks our program is legal. If I did that, it would, obviously be harder for me to convince you that the program is legal. Instead, I'm just going to tell you that we secretly found one judge who was willingly to secretly say that it was legal for us to collect all of your data....
Last night at dinner with a couple of friends who are civil liberties lawyers, I asked why they thought Obama had changed his tune on surveillance; from campaigning for limited, closely overseen, transparent surveillance regimes to establishing a secretive, overarching, totalizing surveillance system that necessitates prosecuting more whistleblowers than all the other presidents in American history, combined.
They suggested that Obama might have taken office and been immediately assailed by surveillance-happy spooks who assured him that the world was full of existential terrors and that if he did anything to get in their way of Total Information Awareness, he would be drummed out of office in ignominy as the president who let America get attacked. Like LBJ, one friend said -- never wanted to ramp up the Vietnam war, but didn't want to turn his administration into the administration that lost a war.
Which got me to thinking: has there ever been a US president who cost his party the next election (or lost office) by being insufficiently hawkish about some war? By having an attack on his watch? GWB would probably have been an embarrassing one-termer but for Osama bin Laden (whom GWB never caught, incidentally, and this never seemed to be taken for weakness in his campaigns and in the campaigns of his would-be successors).
I'm no scholar of US history, but some of you are. Is it realistic to think that a president who isn't a big enough hawk will cost his party the next election, or be remembered in history for leaving America vulnerable to the Kaiser/Osama/the Spanish Armada/General Santa Ana/whatever?
Here are a couple different perspectives on the big news out of Washington this afternoon — an ambitious Obama Administration proposal to appropriate $100 million to begin a project to "map the brain". What's that mean? We have a lot of good data on single neurons. We have a lot of good data on what happens in the brain, as a whole, during certain tasks. What we don't really understand is how those individual neurons work together as networks or what activity in the brain really means on the level of causality and processing. That's what this project would be aimed at understanding. At LiveScience, Stephanie Pappas puts the project into scientific (and financial) context. At Nature News, Meredith Wadman writes about why some scientists are wary of this plan. — Maggie
On Thursday (3/28) at 3pm ET, Boing Boing pal and White House innovation advisor Tom Kalil is hosting a Google Hangout to talk about the maker movement! Tom has been instrumental in helping President Obama and the administration understand the value of maker culture in sci/tech education. Joining Tom in the Hangout will be folks like MAKE founder Dale Dougherty, Super Awesome Maker Show's Super Awesome Sylvia, and Ford future tech lead Venkatesh Prasad. "White House Hangout: The Maker Movement"
(Above, President Obama checks out a soccer-playing robot built by Blue Bell, PA high school students. Photo by Pete Souza.)
Mother Jones has published a "secret" video captured during a private fundraiser for Mitt Romney, in which the Republican presidential candidate tells a small gathering of wealthy voters what he thinks of Americans who support Obama.
The tl;dr: rich guy who gets millions in tax breaks calls half of America parasites.
"[The] 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it."
About 47% of the country, Romney continued, "[M]y job is is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
Buzzfeed posts what is purpoted to be a genuine self-parody by Barack Obama, published under the name “Baroque Yo' Mama” in a parody zine put together by his Harvard Law School graduating class. I sure like this Obama better than the one perpetuating endless war, increasing secrecy and surveillance, enabling torture and indefinite detainment, threatening whistleblowers, and shutting down pot dispensaries. Will be interesting to see what the birthers make of the "born in Norway" gag line.
During the 2008 election, writer Shawn Otto lead a charge to get the presidential candidates to unambiguously and publicly explain their positions on key questions concerning science and public policy. The questions were chosen through a process that involved the general public, as well as scientists and engineers. Science Debate 2008 was intended to be a televised debate on PBS—but neither Barak Obama nor John McCain would agree to participate. Eventually, after a lot of pressure, the candidates finally answered the 14 questions ... but only in print, online. No follow-ups.
Now Science Debate is trying again, hoping to engage President Obama and Mitt Romney and get them to treat science with at least the kind of seriousness politicians give their religious beliefs. (The Republican primary, for instance, featured debates that were themed solely around the candidates' faiths.)
With the help of concerned citizens, scientists, engineers, and the nation's leading science and engineering organizations, Science Debate has put together a list of 14 questions for the 2012 presidential race.
2. Climate Change. The Earth’s climate is changing and there is concern about the potentially adverse effects of these changes on life on the planet. What is your position on cap-and-trade, carbon taxes, and other policies proposed to address global climate change—and what steps can we take to improve our ability to tackle challenges like climate change that cross national boundaries?
9. The Internet. The Internet plays a central role in both our economy and our society. What role, if any, should the federal government play in managing the Internet to ensure its robust social, scientific, and economic role?
You can read the rest of the questions at ScienceDebate.org. Once you've done that—if you agree this is important—sign the petition calling for the candidates to devote a debate to science and the ways that it will affect their public policy choices. These are important issues. We need to know what the candidates think if we're going to be fully informed voters. It's time to make science part of the political discourse.