Evening Blues Preview 6-3-15
This evening's music features slide guitar virtuoso Bob Brozman.
Here are some stories from tonight's posting:
A federal judge is investigating allegations that the government may have improperly destroyed documents during the high-profile media leak investigation of National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Stephanie Gallagher’s inquiry was launched after Drake's lawyers in April accused the Pentagon inspector general’s office of destroying possible evidence during Drake’s criminal prosecution, which ended almost four years ago, McClatchy has learned.
In a May 13 letter, Gallagher told Justice Department lawyers that the judge who had presided over the case asked her to evaluate the allegations from Drake’s lawyers “for further investigation and to make recommendations as to whether any action by the court is warranted or appropriate.”
The allegations raise new questions about a prosecution that had been excoriated by the presiding judge after the Justice Department’s case against Drake unraveled and resulted in the former senior NSA official pleading guilty to a misdemeanor charge.
Jesselyn Radack, Drake’s current lawyer, declined to say what she expected from the judge’s inquiry, which McClatchy learned about independently. She said that her client is “grateful that the court sees this as serious enough to look into.”
“The fact that there is a court-ordered investigation is a partial vindication,” said Radack, who is national security director with the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower advocacy group. “As (the presiding) judge noted, Tom Drake has been through years of hell because of this prosecution even though this case collapsed in a spectacular fashion.”
Several of Rand Paul’s allies in the US House of Representatives are seeking to capitalize on the momentum of surveillance reform as the USA Freedom Act continues through the Senate by attempting to stop the National Security Agency from undermining encryption and banning other law enforcement agencies from collecting US data in bulk.
Thomas Massie, a libertarian-minded Kentucky Republican, has authored an amendment to a forthcoming appropriations bill that blocks any funding for the National Institute of Science and Technology to “coordinate or consult” with the NSA or the Central Intelligence Agency “for the purpose of establishing cryptographic or computer standards that permit the warrantless electronic surveillance” by the spy agencies. He is joined in the effort by Democrat Zoe Lofgren of California. ...
“The USA Freedom Act is definitely not the last word. Whenever a program expires or whenever funding is required, those are must-pass pieces of legislation that present opportunities for refinement,” Massie told the Guardian on Tuesday.
Lofgren and another civil libertarian, Republican Ted Poe of Texas, will propose an amendment to the same appropriations bill that would block the Federal Bureau of Investigation from inserting vulnerabilities into encryption on mobile devices. ...
Another congressional privacy advocate, Democrat Jared Polis of Colorado, will push a further amendment to the appropriations bill that would in effect block the Drug Enforcement Agency from collecting Americans’ phone data in bulk – a recently exposed surveillance program that preceded the NSA’s now-shuttered bulk collection. ... Polis told the Guardian he wanted to “rein in” the DEA’s “unwarranted and unconstitutional program”, calling the Freedom Act “the beginning of a reform process, not the conclusion of one”.
Wow, Baghdad Bob is back, only now they call him Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken!
With most of the Paris summit on the ISIS war in Iraq focusing on just how bad the conflict is going, Deputy Secretary of State Tony Blinken, the US representative at the meeting, seemed to remain in denial about the problems, insisting the US is winning the war against ISIS.
That’s been the official US position all along, and it gets reiterated all the more often the more obvious it gets that ground is being lost to ISIS forces. The loss of Ramadi, a city of 500,000 people and capital of Iraq’s largest province, is the latest evidence the war is being lost.
Blinken insists that the US has always had the “winning strategy” in the war, backing Iraq with huge amounts of military aid and providing air strikes. During today’s summit, the US and other nations agreed to even more shipments of aid to Iraq, including anti-tank missiles.
Wow, 10,000 ISIS fighters killed and only 2 civilians by the US government's count. That's incredible!
More than 10,000 Islamic State fighters have been killed since coalition forces started their campaign against the militant group in Iraq and Syria nine months ago, according to the US deputy secretary of state, Antony Blinken.
Speaking after leaders from more than 20 countries met in Paris for discussions on how to combat Isis, he said there had been a great deal of progress but the Islamists remained resilient and capable of taking the initiative.
Netanyahu and Israeli government turn up heat on BDS over its calls for Israel to be boycotted for its occupation of Palestinian territories
Israel and key international supporters have sharply ratcheted up their campaign against the Palestinian-led Boycott Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, with senior Israeli officials declaring it a strategic threat.
Using language the Israeli government usually reserves for the likes of Hamas or Iran’s nuclear programme, senior figures – including the prime minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, and a key backer in the US, casino magnate Sheldon Adelson – have turned on the movement, which is prominent on university campuses and among international trade unions.
The moves came as the UK’s National Union of Students (NUS) voted on Tuesday to formally ally itself with the aims of BDS. Following the vote, Hebrew media reported that Israeli MPs were due to hold a special session in the Knesset to discuss the issue.
The non-violent grassroots movement, founded with the support of dozens of Palestinian organisations, is modelled on South African anti-apartheid campaigns and calls for an end to the occupation, equality for Palestinian citizens of Israel, and a resolution for Palestinian refugees of 1948. ...
The latest rhetoric has coincided with growing evidence of pro-Israeli activism over BDS, not least in the US. Last week, a new website emerged whose aim was to identify US college students active in the BDS movement with the explicit aim of identifying then to future possible employers. It was not clear who was behind the site.
For centuries, black communities in America have faced physical abuse and unjustified deadly force at the hands of law enforcement. Modern policing even originated in slave patrols and night watches that captured people who tried to escape slavery. According to the most recent FBI data, local police kill black people at nearly the same rate as people lynched in the Jim Crow-era – at least two times a week. The Guardian’s latest count for the first five months of 2015 puts that number at around once per day.
But the verifiable impact on black lives of racially discriminatory policing remains largely unknown. Despite federal law authorizing the US attorney general to collect nationwide data on police use of force, there remains no federal database on how often police kill civilians, let alone abuse their authority.
According to Guardian’s The Counted, police killed 464 people in the first 5 months of 2015, including 135 black people. Their data shows that, in 2015 so far, the black people killed by the police are twice as likely to be unarmed as the white people. According to a recent Washington Post analysis, at this rate, police will fatally shoot nearly 1,000 people by the end of year. The federal government has no way to confirm or disprove this data, though they’ve long had the authority to compile it themselves. ...
Just last week, as part of President Obama’s executive order to limit the types of militarized weapons the federal government can transfer to local police, he expanded police data collection of police uses of force, pedestrian and vehicle stops, officer involved shootings and more. But President Obama’s executive action fails to address the scale of today’s policing crisis or make the data collection mandatory: of 18,000 police departments in the US, only 21 are participating in the new initiative.
Also of interest: