July 12, 2013

Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano to leave Cabinet

Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano -- a member of President Obama's Cabinet since the start of his administration -- is leaving to become president of the University of California system.

Her departure comes as President Obama tries to move a massive immigration overhaul with a divided Congress struggling to find common ground on how to deal with the estimated 11 million people who are in the country illegally.

Obama lauded Napolitano in a statement, saying her portfolio had included "some of the toughest challenges facing our country." He said she had worked "around the clock" to respond to natural disasters, including the Joplin tornado and Hurricane Sandy.

And he said that "since day one, Janet has led my administration’s effort to secure our borders, deploying a historic number of resources, while also taking steps to make our immigration system fairer and more consistent with our values."

Continue reading "Homeland Security chief Janet Napolitano to leave Cabinet" »

July 10, 2013

Poll shows Americans see Snowden as whistleblower, not traitor

Edward Snowden is a whistleblower, not a traitor, say a majority of Americans in a new Quinnipiac poll.

By 55-34 percent, the public sees Snowden, who leaked documents detailing government programs that collect massive amounts of data from Americans, as someone exposing government secrets but not betraying his country.

The poll also found that by a 45-40 margin, voters thought the government's anti-terrorism policies went too far in curbing civil liberties. That's a change from a January, 2010, poll when voters said, by a 63-25 percent margin, that such measures did not go far enough.

"The massive swing in public opinion about civil liberties and governmental anti-terrorism efforts, and the public view that Edward Snowden is more whistleblower than traitor are the public reaction and apparent shock at the exytent to which the government has gone in trying to prevent future terrorist incidents, said Quinnipiac assistant director Peter Brown.

He noted that the poll found little differences along party lines, calling that "unusual in a country sharply divided along political lines about almost everything."

July 08, 2013

Boehner reiterates House won't take up Senate immigration bill

Back from a Fourth of July recess, House Speaker John Boehner reitereated his view on immigration: "I've made it clear, and I'll make it clear again:  The House does not intend to take up the Senate bill," he said Monday.

The House of Representatives will write a bill, he said, but not like the Senate's path to citizenship.

"It's real clear, from everything that I've seen and read over the last couple of weeks, that the American people expect that we'll have strong border security in place before we begin the process of legalizing and fixing our legal immigration system," he said.

House Republicans plan to meet Wednesday to plot future strategy.

 "We have a broken immigration system.  We have undocumented workers here in record numbers.  We just can't turn a blind eye to this problem and think it's going to go away.  It is time for Congress to act, but I believe the House has its job to do. And we will do our job," Boehner said.

June 19, 2013

Big split over who should control nation's borders

Americans are split over who should control the nation's borders, according to a new United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection poll.

Forty-three percent said it should be up to the federal Homeland Security Department, while 38 percent called it a state matter. The Senate is debating immigration changes, and border security is a key flashpoint.

If lawmakers tie such security to legalizing the status of undocumented immigrants, there is also division over what government agency should be responsible.

For those who thought such a link was a good idea, nearly half said homeland security should have the task. Thirty-four percent said state and local governments.

Of those who said the missions should not be linked, more chose local government over Washington, 42 to 39 percent.

And, the poll found, "The question produced a stark partisan split. Fifty-seven percent of Democrats think the Department of Homeland Security should be in charge and 26 percent pick local options. Among Republicans, there’s a greater belief in state and local governments, but the difference is smaller. Forty-six percent of Republicans said local authorities should have the power, while just 39 percent picked the federal government."

It also reported: "White men and women also hold far different views – 46 percent of white men believe state and local governments should have the responsibility while 49 percent of white women think the federal agency should."

The poll surveyed 1,004 adults June 13 to June 16. Margin of error is 3.6 percentage points.

To read more: http://www.nationaljournal.com/congressional-connection/coverage/should-u-s-or-local-authorities-judge-border-s-security-americans-divided-20130618

June 17, 2013

Americans split on surveillance programs

Americans are divided over the government's domestic surveillance, but think their rights and freedoms could be threatened by the spying, according to a new CNN/ORC International poll released Monday.

The survey of 1.014 adults was taken June 11-13, as news about two surveillance programs dominated the news.

Asked if "the federal government has become so large and powerful that it poses an immediate threat to the rights and freedoms of ordinary citizens," 62 percent said yes.

But the public saw some value in the programs, and were critical of self-confessed leaker Edward Snowden.

"As you may know, details of the government collection of phone records and internet data were revealed when a former government contractor named Edward Snowden leaked classified information about those government programs to two newspapers.  Do you approve or disapprove of Snowden's actions?" the poll asked.

Forty-four percent approved, while 52 percent disapproved.

Opinion was split on whether the programs were right. "Do you think the Obama administration was right or wrong in gathering and analyzing those phone records?" the survey asked. Fifty-one percent said it was right, while 48 percent said it was wrong.

To read more: http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2013/06/17/cnn-poll-obama-approval-falls-amid-controversies/

June 16, 2013

House Intelligence Committee Chairman offers strong defense of NSA spying

"It's against the law for the NSA to record and monitor Americans' phone calls. It's against the law, and the law is very clear on this," House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., told CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday.

Rogers explained that the data is in a "lock box."

He called it "a lock box of only phone numbers, no names, no addresses." For that data to get further, "it would mean that the NSA have to conspire with the FBI, would have to conspire with both parties in Congress on the intelligence committees and the oversight functions in the executive branch to do something beyond what the law very narrowly allows. I just find that implausible."

But what, asked moderator Candy Crowley, about allegations someone from NSA had been listening in on a phone call without a warrant in on case.

"I can't tell you how strong we need to make this clear," Rogers said. "The NSA is not listening to Americans' phone calls, and it is not monitoring their e-mails. If it did, it's illegal. It's breaking the law."

And not recording them either, Crowley asked?

"I could go get a warrant on a criminal case, yes, absolutely," Rogers explained, "but that's very, very different. And I think they think that there's this mass surveillance of what you're saying on your phone call and what you're typing in your e-mails. That is just not happening. And it's important, I think, for people to understand because there's all this misinformation about what these programs are."


June 13, 2013

Boehner offers strong defense of domestic spying programs

House Speaker John Boehner made it clear Thursday he's still strongly supporting controversial domestic surveillance programs.

"I've made it very clear this program does not target innocent Americans in any way, shape or form.  These programs have helped keep America safe," he said at his weekly news conference.

"They've enhanced our ability to go after terrorists who want to bring harm to the American people."

Boehner called on the White House to explain the programs more fully.

''Frankly, I'm a little surprised that the White House hasn't stood up and made clear on an ongoing basis over this last week just how important these programs are," he said.

"For those of us who have been briefed on these programs, who are aware of these programs, we're aware how much safety they brought us.  And we're also aware of many examples where they've helped us eliminate terrorist threats."

New poll finds government snooping no surprise to most Americans

Americans should hardly be surprised the government has access to their personal data, a new Allstate/National Journal Heartland Monitor Poll revealed Thursday.

The poll shows "most Americans exhibit a healthy amount of skepticism and resignation about data collection and surveillance, and show varying degrees of trust in institutions to responsibly use their personal information. Recent headlines focusing on government collection of telephone records within the United States may further stoke the underlying worries that the American public has about data privacy."

The quarterly survey probes American attitudes and views on data collection, asking people "their impression of the likelihood that their personal information is available to the government, businesses, individuals, and other groups without their consent – and to what extent people believe they can control how much personal information is shared."

The survey found 85 percent thought their communications history, such as phone calls, emails and Internet use, are "accessible to the government, businesses, and others."

About two-thirds thoguht they had ittle or no control over the type of information that is collected and used by various groups and organizations.

The survey was conducted a few days before reports of top secret government spying programs. It showed 48 percent have "some" or a "great deal" of trust in the government when it comes to the use of their personal data. Similarly, cell phone and Internet service providers are trusted by just 48 percent of the public.

Most trustworthy institutions are healthcare providers and employers.

In addition, the polls found 0 percent supporting expanded government monitoring of phone and email activities.

"Rather," the survery said, "the public is more likely to favor increased use of camera surveillance of public places, with 44 percent supporting the measure, followed by 16 percent of respondents in favor of 'increased censorship of websites and less freedom to access sources on the Internet.'"

Forty-two percent opposed all three alternatives.

To read more: http://www.theheartlandvoice.com/category/insights

June 11, 2013

Senators want to end "secret law"

A bipartisan group of senators Tuesday introduced legislation to end the "secret law" that keeps details about government surveillance programs secret.

Under the bill, the Attorney General would be required to declassify "significant Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court opinions."

Doing so, the senators said in a joint statement, would allow "Americans to know how broad of a legal authority the government is claiming to spy on Americans under the Patriot Act and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act."

Sponsors include Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., Mike Lee, R-Utah,, Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Dean Heller, R-Nev., Mark Begich, D-Alaska, Al Franken, D-Minn., Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Ron Wyden, D-Ore. 

“Americans deserve to know how much information about their private communications the government believes it’s allowed to take under the law," Merkley said.

“There is plenty of room to have this debate without compromising our surveillance sources or methods or tipping our hand to our enemies.  We can’t have a serious debate about how much surveillance of Americans’ communications should be permitted without ending secret law.”

Boehner on Snowden: "He's a traitor"

House Speaker John Boehner Tuesday declared Edward Snowden, who leaked top secret domestic spy data to the media, a "traitor."

Boehner, R-Ohio, spoke to ABC's "Good Morning America."

"He's a traitor," the speaker said. "The president outlined last week that these were important national security programs to help keep Americans safe, and give us tools to fight the terrorist threat  that we face."

Boehner supported the program. "The president also outlined that there are appropriate safeguards in place  to make sure that there's no snooping, if you will on Americans here at home."

What troubled the speaker was "the disclosure of this information puts Americans at risk.  It shows our adversaries what our capabilities are.  And it's a giant violation of the law."

Read the entire interview here.


"Planet Washington" covers politics and government. It is written by journalists in McClatchy's Washington Bureau.

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