September 13, 2013

Americans not confident in government's ability to handle problems

Americans' trust in government's ability to deal with domestic issues is down to historic lows, according to a new Gallup survey.

Forty-two percent of those polled Sept. 5-8 said they had a great deal or fair amount of confidence, a percentage point less than a 2011 survey.

International marks were also down. About half said they had a fair or good amount of confidence in the government's ability to handle foreign matters, less than the 2007 low of 51 percent. The survey was conducted as the  United States was considering a military strike against Syria.

"Americans' trust and confidence in the federal government's ability to solve problems internationally as well as domestically has fallen to historic lows this year," according to a Gallup analysis.

"There are a number of possible explanations for this loss of confidence: controversy surrounding potential U.S. action in Syria, an enduring low assessment of the state of the economy, or low levels of confidence in Congress," the analysis said.

To read more:


September 11, 2013

Americans worried about being drawn into a deeper conflict

Americans are wary of the United States acting as the world's policeman, according to a new poll.

A United Technologies/National Journal Congressional Connection survey found half were concerned the U.S. would be drawn more deeply into a conflict with Syria.

"The results show a nation wary of further entanglements 12 years removed from the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, and after the prolonged military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The survey also shows that Republicans, long the nation's more hawkish party, are now among those most skittish of further interventions abroad," according to a poll analysis.

"That can be partly explained away by the fact that President Obama, a Democrat, is leading the current call for strikes against Syria. But it is also evidence that the libertarian, noninterventionist wing within the GOP is growing at the grassroots level. It is tension likely to play out in the 2016 Republican presidential primary."

To read the poll results and analysis:

August 28, 2013

"We stand ready to come back into session," say 116 House members

One hundred sixteen House of Representatives members are telling the White House in a letter they're ready to return to Washington to debate and discuss Syria.

The letter, circulated by Rep. Scott Rigell, R-Va., says "We stand ready to come back into session, consider the facts before us and share the burden of decisions made regarding U.S. involvement in the quickly escalating Syrian conflict."

Signed by lawmakers in both parties, it explained "While the Founders wisely gave the Office of the President the authority to act in emergencies, they foresaw the need to ensure public debate – and the active engagement of Congress – prior to committing U.S. military assets.  Engaging our military in Syria when no direct threat to the United States exists and without prior congressional authorization would violate the separation of powers that is clearly delineated in the Constitution."

Read the letter here

July 26, 2013

Pelosi, 153 House Democrats tell Obama of "lingering questions and concerns" about NSA programs

House of Representatives Democrats Friday night sent a letter to President Barack Obama raising questions about National Security Agency data gathering programs.

"Although some of us voted for and others against the amendment, we all agree that there are lingering questions and concerns about the current 215 collection program," said the letter signed by 153 Democrats and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

The letter follows Wednesday's House vote to put new restrictions on the programs. The effort failed by a narrow margin, but did win bipartisan backing.

As a result, Pelosi began circulating the letter, which was sent Friday.

 "Congress must examine the various national security collection programs and consider amendments to the law.  We have been assured that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has embarked on a review of the collection programs done pursuant to FISA and the Patriot Act, and has agreed to review various legislative proposals." 

The letter's text:

Continue reading "Pelosi, 153 House Democrats tell Obama of "lingering questions and concerns" about NSA programs" »

July 25, 2013

Pelosi to Obama: "There are lingering questions and concerns" about NSA programs

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi Thursday began circulating a letter to President Barack Obama raising concerns about the National Security Agency's data collection programs.

Pelosi voted against curbs on the programs Wednesday, but said at her weekly press conference Thursday, she had a number of questions.

Here's part of her letter:

"Although some of us voted for and others against the amendment, we all agree that there are lingering questions and concerns about the current 215 collection program.  These include:

  • ·        Whether the bulk metadata telecommunications collection program sufficiently protects the privacy and civil liberties of Americans. 
  • ·        Whether the program could be tailored more narrowly to better ensure the protection of privacy and civil liberties.
  • ·        Whether the law is being implemented in a manner consistent with Congressional intent.
  • ·        How we can ensure greater transparency regarding FISA court operations, decision making, and issuance of orders. 
  • ·        Whether changes to the current FISA Court structure are needed.

Congress must examine the various national security collection programs and consider amendments to the law.  We have been assured that the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board has embarked on a review of the collection programs done pursuant to FISA and the Patriot Act, and has agreed to review various legislative proposals. 

 We look forward to working with you and Administration officials to address the concerns outlined above and to explore options which will preserve Americans’ privacy and civil liberties while protecting our national security."

Boehner spokesman hopes NSA vote will be "wake-up call to the White House"

In the wake of Wednesday's close vote to curb the National Security Agency's data collection programs, House Speaker John Boehner's office is warning the White House to be more forthcoming.

"Last night, the House defeated an amendment that would have gutted the president’s NSA surveillance program. It required a bipartisan coalition of Republicans and Democrats," said press secretary Brendan Buck. "The Speaker opposed the amendment, but allowed a vote as part of his commitment to run a more open House.  We’re pleased the amendment failed, because – as the Speaker has said repeatedly – this program is important to our national security and saves American lives."

But Buck noted, "The vote was close. Closer than it should have been. That’s because the president continues to demonstrate a troubling reluctance to sufficiently defend this program.  Like it or not, it is the president’s responsibility to explain – regularly and repeatedly if needed – the program’s focus, scope, and necessity to the American people.

"Hopefully this vote will serve as a wake-up call to the White House. Hopefully the president will now consider making a real, consistent effort to explain what would be at risk if this type of national security program went away. This is an obligation the president has and one only he can fulfill. Hopefully he’s up to it."

July 24, 2013

White House: Legislation would "hastily dismantle" counter terrorism tool

As Congress considers to rein in sweeping data collection programs as soon as today, the White House expresses their displeasure with the legislation.

The White House said the limitations were a “blunt approach” that “would hastily dismantle one of our intelligence community’s counter terrorism tools.”

Here's the full statement from White House press secretary Jay Carney:

In light of the recent unauthorized disclosures, the President has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens.

The administration has taken various proactive steps to advance this debate including the president’s meeting with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, his public statements on the disclosed programs, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s release of its own public statements, ODNI General Counsel Bob Litt’s speech at Brookings, and ODNI’s decision to declassify and disclose publicly that the Administration filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

We look forward to continuing to discuss these critical issues with the American people and the Congress. However, we oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism tools.

This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process. We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.

July 23, 2013

Senate intelligence panel leaders urge House not to defund NSA programs

The Senate Intelligence Committee's top ranking members Tuesday warned the House of Representatives to resist an effort to defund certain domestic surveillance programs.

A vote could come as soon as Wednesday.

“The FISA business records program has contributed to disrupting numerous terrorist attacks against our nation. It has been reviewed and authorized by all three branches of government and is subject to strict controls," said Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., in a statement.

"Since the public disclosure of the business records program, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has explored how the program can be modified to add extra privacy protections without sacrificing its effectiveness. We believe this debate in the congressional Intelligence and Judiciary committees should conitnue and that any amendments to defund the program on appropriations bill would be unwise."

Reid: Take a look at NSA programs

The House of Representatives plans to vote on cutting off funds for certain National Security Agency domestic surveillance programs, perhaps as soon as Wednesday.

But the effort may not get far in the Senate. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nevada, doesn't like the process--the defunding is part of a massive defense spending bill.

"What they're doing to defense is really very, very bad.  And they're talking about sending us a sequester number on the so-called CR (continuing resolution) they're going to send us," Reid told a news conference Tuesday.

"I will say this about NSA.  There's nothing wrong at all about taking a look at these programs.  We need as much transparency as possible -- but their real strange way of legislating, which means nothing happens the way they legislate," Reid said.

July 11, 2013

Americans want U.S. to stay out of Syria, poll finds

By an overwhelming margin, Americans think it's not in this country's interest to get involved in Syria, according to a Quinnipiac poll released Thursday.

By 61-27 percent, people think it's not in the national interest to get involved in the war-torn nation. And by a 59-27 percent margin, they oppose giving arms and supplies to anti-government rebels.

But they do back using drones or cruise missiles against Syrian government targets, by a 49-38 percent edge.

Opposition to aiding the rebels crossed American political party lines, while Republicans and Democrats generally backed the use of drones.

To read more click here.


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

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