CNET reports that Internet service providers are being pressed by the National Security Agency to turn over users' passwords and security questions and answers to the Government. While many see this as an invasion of privacy, NSA Deputy Director John Inglis called it “an essential building block of national security.”
“What good would it do us to warehouse all the data we're collecting if we could be shutout of access by inability to get past users' security walls?” Inglis asked. “Loyal and law-abiding citizens have nothing to fear from the NSA. Only those engaged in activities hostile to Government policies will be targeted.”
The NSA's reassurances did not impress Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore) who called it “an essential building block for unlimited government. Access to passwords would allow the Government to seize control of users' accounts. Bank deposits could be cleaned out. Fraudulent transactions could be conducted making the users liable for civil damages and criminal charges. It would enable an 'Orwellian' nightmare state to arise.”
Inglis characterized Wyden's fears as “at best, paranoid delusions,” but left open the possibility that “they might represent a more sinister effort aimed at thwarting our attempts to protect the nation from persons engaging in anti-government conspiracies.”
US Ups Pressure for Russia to Allow Snowden Extradition
US Attorney General Eric Holder issued a written demand that the Russian Government apprehend NSA whistle blower Edward Snowden and send him back to the United States to face charges of leaking national secrets. In an effort to soothe concerns that Snowden might be ill-treated, Holder promised that “we will not be seeking the death penalty, nor will Mr. Snowden be subjected to torture.”
To bolster his credibility, Holder cited the case of Private Bradley Manning, the U.S. soldier on trial for providing documents to WikiLeaks. “Private Manning wasn't tortured,” Holder pointed out. “He has been provided with full accommodations of food and lodging while enjoying a fair trial.”
Upon his arrest, Manning was held in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. The Government is seeking a sentence of imprisonment for life for actions it says “aided and abetted the enemy.”
In the event that Holder's “sweet talk” fails to persuade the Russians to surrender Snowden, the US Senate is taking up a bill introduced by Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The bill would impose “sanctions” against any country that “harbors” Snowden.
“Snowden's revelation of the surveillance performed by the NSA has done incalculable harm to the image of the United States,” Graham asserted. “Now that everyone knows the government is spying on them their vision of America as a free country has been irreparably damaged. Snowden's fleeing to Russia has allowed this notorious trampler of human rights to pose as a defender of this traitor's freedom of speech and travel.”
Graham said “ideally, Snowden ought to realize what he's done is wrong and take his punishment like a man—as my good friend Senator McCain did when he was tormented for seven years as a prisoner-of-war in Vietnam. Failing this, it is important that Congress go on record condemning Snowden's treachery and not let President Obama hog all the credit by taking him out with a drone strike while we look like a bunch of gutless wonders.”
Obama Praises Ho Chi Minh
During a joint meeting with current Vietnam President Truong Tan Sang, President Obama praised hard-core Vietnamese communist revolutionary Ho Chi Minh as “inspired by our founding fathers.”
According to Obama, “Minh adopted key tenets of the program for liberty advocated by America's revolutionary heroes—free public education, progressive income taxes, centralized banking, and the foundation stone of universal equality: from each according to ability, to each according to need.”
President Obama expressed optimism that “the growth of mutual respect and trust between our two countries will enable a greater cooperation on a wide range of issues.”
President Truong offered his “sympathy for the adversities your Government faces with so many internal opponents,” and promised to “share the methods that have made our country more unified. In Vietnam everyone works for the success of the Government. Perhaps you can learn from us as we have from you.”
There are some signs that the Obama Administration may be taking heed of Vietnam's unifying initiatives. In Vietnam, bloggers who insult the government are imprisoned, priests are persecuted, political dissent is suppressed, the media censored, and anti-government “parasites” sentenced to forced labor.
At the University of Central Missouri students belonging to the College Young Republicans were barred from attending a speech given by President Obama—as a “security precaution.”
Shaun Donovan, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, announced a federal program to subsidize minorities who want to move into “white neighborhoods” they can't otherwise afford.
Contradicting a recent Supreme Court decision, Attorney General Eric Holder announced it will block states from carrying out “election reforms that do not conform to the Administration's vision.”
President Declares Scandals “Phony” and “a Distraction”
In a bid to change the national narrative, President Obama slammed ongoing investigations into Administration actions as “phony” and “a distraction from the real issues Americans care about.”
Incidents being investigated include the attack in Benghazi that killed the US Ambassador to Libya and three other Americans, the IRS abuse of political opponents, and the extensive spying on US citizens by the NSA.
“The tragedy in Benghazi was heart rending,” Obama acknowledged. “But no matter what we do now we can't bring those people back to life. Stirring things up, trying to figure out who to blame diverts us from moving forward toward more productive uses of our time.”
“The punishment of those low-level employees at the IRS who may have exceeded their authority is something that will be handled administratively,” the President reassured. “Those hoping to trace their missteps back to me will be sorely disappointed. I gave no explicit orders for any IRS employees to harass my political enemies. I can't be held responsible for any transgressions they may have committed out of excessive zeal and loyalty.”
“Finally, I would think that the House's recent rejection of Congressman Amash's attempt to rein-in the NSA is proof that, at the very least, this so-called scandal is one joined by a majority of both Parties,” the President maintained. “Mature adults recognize that privacy is a luxury we can no longer afford. Electronic communications are going to be intercepted by somebody. Isn't it better that the Government have access so we can help protect people from malevolent forces?”
The key issue from which our attention is being diverted is, according to the President, the significant progress the economy is making under his leadership. “We have restrained the unfettered greed of those who in their quest for profit would force larger and larger numbers of Americans into the workforce,” the President boasted. “At the same time, the Government is providing more people with disability benefits and food stamps than ever before. We're well on our way to severing the link between effort and reward that has enslaved humankind since the beginning of time. Freedom from toil has been achieved by more Americans than ever before.”
The President brushed aside arguments that his vision of a leisure society is unrealistic. “I converse with reporters on this topic all the time,” Obama offered. “They tell me my ideas are great. And off-the-record, most Republicans tell me the same thing. They're just afraid to agree with me publicly out of fear that misguided GOP voters won't understand the wisdom of my policies and will oust them in a primary election.”
Chicago Launches New Campaign against Gun Violence
With over 500 murders committed in the City in 2012, Chicago officials are desperate to stem the tide of violence. This week, the City will be mailing letters to persons identified in a “heat list” developed by a Yale professor, who studied murders on Chicago’s West Side between 2005 and 2010.
“The purpose of the letters is two-fold,” said Mayor Rahm Emanuel. “On the one hand, we are letting these criminals know that they are on our radar. Maybe if they know we know who they are they'll be less eager to risk getting caught committing a crime.”
“On the other hand, recognizing that many of these criminals lacked a good male role model growing up, we thought that maybe a little fatherly advice might be what they need,” Emanuel added. “I mean, if no one has told these young men that murdering someone is wrong, we want to be the first.”
The Mayor favorably contrasted the letter writing campaign with New York City's stop and frisk approach, which he called “unacceptably dangerous. Maybe New York cops can get away with stopping these kind of people on the street, but here it would be an invitation to get shot. It seems less likely that a mailman would get shot delivering one of our letters. Even if we're wrong about that, replacing a mailman requires less training and is less costly than replacing a cop.”