Snowden’s Global Revolution: 1 Year of Revelations

Thursday marks a year since NSA employee Edward Snowden leaked classified documents on America’s world-spanning espionage programme, engulfing everyone from a US citizen to a foreign president. RT’s Marina Portnaya looks back at the revelations.

“The greatest fear that I have regarding the outcome for America, of these disclosures, is that nothing will change” – Edward Snowden

GMO Labeling Bill Voted Down In Senate

The United States Senate decided again Thursday that it simply does not want to let states tell people whether or not they are eating genetically modified food.

The Senate voted overwhelmingly — 71 to 27 — against an amendment to the sweeping farm bill, squashing a measure that would not have required labeling of genetically modified organisms, but merely would have let states decide if they wanted to require such labeling.

“The concept we’re talking about today is a fairly commonsense and non-radical idea,” Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), the sponsor of the amendment, said shortly before the vote. “All over the world, in the European Union, in many other countries around the world, dozens and dozens of countries, people are able to look at the food that they are buying and determine through labeling whether or not that product contains genetically modified organisms.”

Sanders has noted that more than 3,000 ingredients are required to be labeled, but genetically modified ingredients are not part of that list. His state and Connecticut have passed laws to require such labeling, but Sanders said local leaders fear that large biotech corporations such as Monsanto could sue the states on the grounds that they are preempting federal authority. He said his bill would make clear that states can do what they want on the issue… via GMO Labeling Bill Voted Down In Senate

Priorities USA

The Obama administration believes in freedom of the press — just not freedom of speech for people who might talk to the press.

via Priorities USA – The Daily Show with Jon Stewart – 05/23/13 – Video Clip | Comedy Central.

Obama’s speech: He’s just like Bush in pushing the limits of executive power

In his speech today about the future of American counterterrorism operations, President Obama said that he will order drone strikes less frequently and redouble efforts to transfer some detainees out of Guantánamo. He suggested a more focused approach to terrorist threats in light of the diminished capacity of al-Qaida. Yet he also maintained the administration’s long-standing legal approach. The speech thus may well confirm the view among Obama’s civil libertarian critics that he is the most lawless executive since, um, George Bush. They are right to see the continuity from one president to the next, but they are wrong to believe that Obama has violated the law.

I have discussed the legal basis of the war on terror before. The 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force, updated in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, gives the president war powers against al-Qaida. War powers include the power to kill, to capture, to detain, to interrogate, to engage in surveillance. These powers have been further confirmed and regulated by Congress in numerous other statutes, and approved by the courts.

Critics argue that the Obama administration violated the rights of the Islamic cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen killed by drones in Yemen, by failing to capture him and give him a trial. But the Constitution does not require trials for enemy combatants, not even Americans. The Obama administration has actually gone beyond its predecessors by stating that it will not engage in targeted killings of Americans overseas unless they pose an imminent threat and cannot be captured. (Note, however, that imminent does not mean what the dictionary says.) The administration has also recognized the drone killings of three other Americans who were not targeted but wandered into the line of fire. No law prohibits such accidental deaths unless they were the result of extreme carelessness or indifference to the lives of civilians… via Obama’s speech: He’s just like Bush in pushing the limits of executive power. – Slate Magazine

The Next Benghazi Scandal

It’s been burbling up from the conservative media for nearly six months, starting with Fox News. Last year, the network’s reporter Catherine Herridge reported on a ship that had arrived to Turkey from Libya laden with weapons. Ordnance left unsecured after the fall of Gaddafi was being taken to Syria to overthrow another dictator.

This isn’t in much dispute. The dispute, and the theory, is that the weapons used to kill Americans in Benghazi were made available by bungling American gun-runners. That’s the theory floated by Roger Simon, who talks to two “Benghazi whistleblowers” (multiplying like rabbits now).

[Chris] Stevens’ mission in Benghazi, they will say, was to buy back Stinger missiles from al-Qaeda groups issued to them by the State Department, not by the CIA. Such a mission would usually be a CIA effort, but the intelligence agency had opposed the idea because of the high risk involved in arming “insurgents” with powerful weapons that endanger civilian aircraft.

It’s a nearly perfect scandal—Fast and Furious plus Benghazi, a sort of Neapolitan sundae of outrage and disgrace. If the anonymous accusers are wrong, we have plenty of other ways to explain the loose weapons in Benghazi and the transfer to Syria. And making it possible for the stray weapons to get to Syria is the sort of thing both parties in Congress largely favor. But the darkest version of the theory is gaining ground on the right.

via The Next Benghazi Scandal.

Obama Drone Speech – The Lethal President Sends His Regrets

A few hours before President Obama delivered his national security speech, I called a lawyer who used to work for him. I wanted to gain some insight into a question that everyone seemed to be asking: Why now? Why had the President decided, four months into his second term in office, to admit responsibility for the deaths of four American citizens, to cut back on the drone strikes that have been the hallmark of his counter-terrorism policy if not his entire presidency, and then to give a speech that, if it lived up to its advance billing, would propose limits on his administration’s own lethality?

The lawyer said that the speech was a response to several things, among them the drawing down of the war in Afghanistan and the promotion of John Brennan to the directorship of the CIA. But most of all, the lawyer added, the speech was an opportunity — a chance for the President, finally, to be himself. “From what I know of the president, these are things he really cares about. He’s been displeased with the constant war footing and frustrated with the lack of transparency. These are themes he’s been pressing from day one. But now he thinks that time is running short and he thinks it’s important to the United States and the world for him to be clear about what the administration is doing. It’s hard to move the institutions he has to deal with. He’s finally said, ‘Enough. We have to do this.’ I think this was always coming. What you’ll hear from the president today is what he’s always wanted to say. It’s what I’ve always heard him say.”

A few minutes later, I called one of President Obama’s former counter-terrorism advisors. I told him what the lawyer had said, about the entrenched institutions of government frustrating the president’s inclination to push for transparency, and he said, “I never saw any inclination to push for these things. He’s always talked transparency without being transparent. He must have started pushing after I left.”

From the start, Barack Obama has been a man of epic divisions in matters of national security. He outlawed torture and announced his intention to close Guantanamo as his first significant act in office; he approved a drone strike as his second. He won and accepted a Nobel Peace Prize while personally approving the elimination of those identified in secret as our enemies. Even now, in the matter of national-security leaks, he speaks of reporters not having to go to jail for doing their jobs in response to his administration raising the prospect of reporters having to go to jail for doing their jobs. What passes as his breadth of vision is often the result of the lengths to which he’ll go to reconcile the irreconcilable… via Obama Drone Speech – The Lethal President Sends His Regrets – Esquire

Obama speech: Drones, Benghazi, and Gitmo responsibility lies with Congress

Maybe that headline’s a little unfair. We have a divided government; Congress holds the purse strings; Congress passed the 2001 Authorization of Force in Iraq. But most discussion of foreign policy focuses on the president, the commander-in-chief. Why didn’t he close Gitmo, like he promised? Is he saying he and he alone can kill citizens with drone attacks?

At four moments in his speech today, the president pointed at Capitol Hill and asked it to move on or admit its role in the security decisions that have become so controversial… via Obama speech: Drones, Benghazi, and Gitmo responsibility lies with Congress.

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