Holder OK’d search warrant for Fox News reporter’s private emails, official says

Attorney General Eric Holder signed off on a controversial search warrant that identified Fox News reporter James Rosen as a “possible co-conspirator” in violations of the Espionage Act and authorized seizure of his private emails, a law enforcement official told NBC News on Thursday.

The disclosure of the attorney general’s role came as President Barack Obama, in a major speech on his counterterrorism policy, said Holder had agreed to review Justice Department guidelines governing investigations that involve journalists.

“I am troubled by the possibility that leak investigations may chill the investigative journalism that holds government accountable,” Obama said. “Journalists should not be at legal risk for doing their jobs.”

Rosen, who has not been charged in the case, was nonetheless the target of a search warrant that enabled Justice Department investigators to secretly seize his private emails after an FBI agent said he had “asked, solicited and encouraged … (a source) to disclose sensitive United States internal documents and intelligence information.”

Obama’s comments follow a firestorm of criticism that has erupted over disclosures that in separate investigations of leaks of classified information, the Justice Department had obtained private emails that Rosen exchanged with a source and the phone records of Associated Press reporters… via Holder OK’d search warrant for Fox News reporter’s private emails, official says – Open Channel

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U.S. Acknowledges Killing 4 Americans in Drone Strikes

President Obama plans to open a new phase in the nation’s long struggle with terrorism on Thursday by restricting the use of unmanned drone strikes that have been at the heart of his national security strategy and shifting control of them away from the C.I.A. to the military.

In his first major speech on counterterrorism of his second term, Mr. Obama hopes to refocus the epic conflict that has defined American priorities since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and even foresees an unspecified day when the so-called war on terror might all but end, according to people briefed on White House plans.

As part of the shift in approach, the administration on Wednesday formally acknowledged for the first time that it had killed four American citizens in drone strikes outside the battlefields of Afghanistan and Iraq, arguing that its actions were justified by the danger to the United States. Mr. Obama approved providing new information to Congress and the public about the rules governing his attacks on Al Qaeda and its allies.

A new classified policy guidance signed by Mr. Obama will sharply curtail the instances when unmanned aircraft can be used to attack in places that are not overt war zones, countries like Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia. The rules will impose the same standard for strikes on foreign enemies now used only for American citizens deemed to be terrorists… via U.S. Acknowledges Killing 4 Americans in Drone Strikes – NYTimes.com

The Audacity of Eric Holder’s Letter Admitting Team Obama Killed 4 Americans

Attorney General Eric Holder has just sent a truly incredible letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee. In it, he acknowledges that the U.S. has killed four of its own citizens in drone strikes. Casual news consumers may find that confusing. Hasn’t there already been an extremely public debate about the killing of American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki and his 16-year-old son, Abdulrahman? Indeed, everyone knows that, despite the 5th Amendment, the Obama Administration believes it can target and kill American citizens without due process, and that it has done so.

But that hasn’t stopped Team Obama from keeping what everyone knows officially classified, permitting them to broach the subject when convenient and to dodge it when inconvenient. Wednesday’s revelation, first reported by the indispensable Charlie Savage of the New York Times, is therefore a good thing. Team Obama has dispensed with the absurd pretense that targeting Americans is a secret, and admitted that they’ve killed a total of 4 Americans with drones.

It’s actually three other features of the letter that are incredible.. via The Audacity of Eric Holder’s Letter Admitting Team Obama Killed 4 Americans – Conor Friedersdorf – The Atlantic

Congress hosts IRS bloodbath, slamming tax authorities for partisan targeting of conservatives, as one official refuses to answer questions

Tempers flared in a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing Wednesday, with members on both sides of the aisle castigating the Internal Revenue Service for targeting conservative groups with special scrutiny, and then hiding the practice from Congress.

Rep. Darrel Issa, the committee’s chairman, said that the committee learned just yesterday that the IRS completed its own investigation a year before a Treasury Department Inspector General report was completed.

But despite the IRS recognizing in May 2012 that its employees were treating right-wing groups differently from other organizations, Issa said, IRS personnel withheld those conclusions from legislators.

Just yesterday the committee interviewed Holly Paz, the director of exempt organizations, rulings and agreements, division of the IRS,’ Issa said. ‘While a tremendous amount of attention is centered about the Inspector General’s report, or investigation, the committee has learned from Ms. Paz that she in fact participated in an IRS internal investigation that concluded in May of 2012 – May 3 of 2012 – and found essentially the same thing that Mr. George found more than a year later… via Congress hosts IRS bloodbath, slamming tax authorities for partisan targeting of conservatives, as one official refuses to answer questions | Mail Online

Texas votes on its own CISPA-like cyber bill

The biggest thing to come out of Texas may turn out to be a blow to Internet freedoms: legislators there are considering a bill that would compromise privacy on the Web for all residents of the Lone Star State.

Lawmakers in the State Senate are expected to vote Monday on a bill that, if passed, would compel Internet Service Providers (ISPs) anywhere in the world to fork over private Web records if that information could aid in a criminal investigation.

Federal legislation already in place would likely trump any attempts from Texas prosecutors to pry personal ISP records or other online communications from the likes of social networking sites, but the efforts on behalf of Lone Star lawmakers to get the ball rolling on a new cyber-spy bill are indeed very real. Last week, its companion bill in the State House of Representatives passed unanimously, and similar outcome in the Senate is all now expected any moment. Now should SB 1052 proves victorious in the Senate, an Internet surveillance bill written in Texas but with international implications could be added to the law books later this year.

Ben Sherman of the Burnt Orange Report cautioned in a blog post last week that the bill could be very dangerous to all Americans if passed because it would let local authorities seize electronic records held on servers outside of Texas.

“The bill requires any Internet provider to people in Texas (that is – just about the entire Internet) to respond to search warrants for online communications in 4-30 days. That is an extremely narrow window which makes it difficult for Internet providers to keep users’ other information private,” he wrote.

Following the failed attempts to pass cybersecurity bills on a national level, as seen most recently in the stalled Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a number of state and local governments have considered bills that would bring the tools asked for in aborted federal acts into the hands of prosecutors in Texas.

Whereas CISPA sought to find a way to ease the sharing of potentially dangerous information between third-party businesses and the federal government, the efforts coming out of Texas would ensure that ISPs and any other businesses that operate over the Web would have to relinquish user data if a police officer argues there is probable cause it is pursuant to an investigation… via Texas votes on its own CISPA-like cyber bill — RT USA

Coburn Wants Tornado Disaster Aid to Be Offset

The tornado damage near Oklahoma City is still being assessed and the death toll is expected to rise, but already Sen. Tom Coburn, R-Okla., says he will insist that any federal disaster aid be paid for with cuts elsewhere.

CQ Roll Call reporter Jennifer Scholtes wrote for CQ.com Monday evening that Coburn said he would “absolutely” demand offsets for any federal aid that Congress provides.

Coburn added, Scholtes wrote, that it is too early to guess at a damage toll but that he knows for certain he will fight to make sure disaster funding that the federal government contributes is paid for. It’s a position he has taken repeatedly during his career when Congress debates emergency funding for disaster aid.

Scholtes points out that Coburn was one of 36 Republican senators who voted against disaster funding for Superstorm Sandy in January.

A tornado or tornadoes that ripped through central Oklahoma have killed at least 51, according to the New York Times.

Scholtes writes of the disaster funding issue: “There’s no telling yet how much FEMA will use to respond to the tornado that hit near Oklahoma City on Monday. But FEMA spent more than $200 million to aid Missouri after the tornado that tore through Joplin almost exactly two years ago.”

Scholtes notes that the White House issued a statement Monday evening, saying the Federal Emergency Management Agency was monitoring the storm.

“Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has spoken with Gov. Mary Fallin to make sure there are no unmet needs and to make clear that at the president’s direction the administration and FEMA stand ready to provide all available assistance in response to the severe weather,” the White House said in the statement.

Fallin on Monday also called up the Oklahoma National Guard to assist rescue efforts.

via Coburn Wants Tornado Disaster Aid to Be Offset | The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.

Report: IRS Deliberately Chose Not to Fess Up to Scandal Before Election

NBC’s Lisa Myers reported this morning that the IRS deliberately chose not to reveal that it had wrongly targeted conservative groups until after the 2012 presidential election:

via Report: IRS Deliberately Chose Not to Fess Up to Scandal Before Election | The Weekly Standard

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