Snowden made the right call when he fled the U.S.

From The Washington Post:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/daniel-ellsberg-nsa-leaker-snowden-made-the-right-call/2013/07/07/0b46d96c-e5b7-11e2-aef3-339619eab080_story.html

By Daniel Ellsberg
July 7, 2013

Many people compare Edward Snowden to me unfavorably for leaving the country and seeking asylum, rather than facing trial as I did. I don’t agree. The country I stayed in was a different America, a long time ago.

After the New York Times had been enjoined from publishing the Pentagon Papers — on June 15, 1971, the first prior restraint on a newspaper in U.S. history — and I had given another copy to The Post (which would also be enjoined), I went underground with my wife, Patricia, for 13 days. My purpose (quite like Snowden’s in flying to Hong Kong) was to elude surveillance while I was arranging — with the crucial help of a number of others, still unknown to the FBI — to distribute the Pentagon Papers sequentially to 17 other newspapers, in the face of two more injunctions. The last three days of that period was in defiance of an arrest order: I was, like Snowden now, a “fugitive from justice.”

Yet when I surrendered to arrest in Boston, having given out my last copies of the papers the night before, I was released on personal recognizance bond the same day. Later, when my charges were increased from the original three counts to 12, carrying a possible 115-year sentence, my bond was increased to $50,000. But for the whole two years I was under indictment, I was free to speak to the media and at rallies and public lectures. I was, after all, part of a movement against an ongoing war. Helping to end that war was my preeminent concern. I couldn’t have done that abroad, and leaving the country never entered my mind.

There is no chance that experience could be reproduced today, let alone that a trial could be terminated by the revelation of White House actions against a defendant that were clearly criminal in Richard Nixon’s era — and figured in his resignation in the face of impeachment — but are today all regarded as legal (including an attempt to “incapacitate me totally”).

I hope Snowden’s revelations will spark a movement to rescue our democracy, but he could not be part of that movement had he stayed here. There is zero chance that he would be allowed out on bail if he returned now and close to no chance that, had he not left the country, he would have been granted bail. Instead, he would be in a prison cell like Bradley Manning, incommunicado.

Continue reading at:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/daniel-ellsberg-nsa-leaker-snowden-made-the-right-call/2013/07/07/0b46d96c-e5b7-11e2-aef3-339619eab080_story.html

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In Secret, Court Vastly Broadens Powers of N.S.A.

From The New York Times:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/us/in-secret-court-vastly-broadens-powers-of-nsa.html?hp&_r=0

By
Published: July 6, 2013

WASHINGTON — In more than a dozen classified rulings, the nation’s surveillance court has created a secret body of law giving the National Security Agency the power to amass vast collections of data on Americans while pursuing not only terrorism suspects, but also people possibly involved in nuclear proliferation, espionage and cyberattacks, officials say.

The rulings, some nearly 100 pages long, reveal that the court has taken on a much more expansive role by regularly assessing broad constitutional questions and establishing important judicial precedents, with almost no public scrutiny, according to current and former officials familiar with the court’s classified decisions.

The 11-member Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, known as the FISA court, was once mostly focused on approving case-by-case wiretapping orders. But since major changes in legislation and greater judicial oversight of intelligence operations were instituted six years ago, it has quietly become almost a parallel Supreme Court, serving as the ultimate arbiter on surveillance issues and delivering opinions that will most likely shape intelligence practices for years to come, the officials said.

Last month, a former National Security Agency contractor, Edward J. Snowden, leaked a classified order from the FISA court, which authorized the collection of all phone-tracing data from Verizon business customers. But the court’s still-secret decisions go far beyond any single surveillance order, the officials said.

“We’ve seen a growing body of law from the court,” a former intelligence official said. “What you have is a common law that develops where the court is issuing orders involving particular types of surveillance, particular types of targets.”

In one of the court’s most important decisions, the judges have expanded the use in terrorism cases of a legal principle known as the “special needs” doctrine and carved out an exception to the Fourth Amendment’s requirement of a warrant for searches and seizures, the officials said.

The special needs doctrine was originally established in 1989 by the Supreme Court in a ruling allowing the drug testing of railway workers, finding that a minimal intrusion on privacy was justified by the government’s need to combat an overriding public danger. Applying that concept more broadly, the FISA judges have ruled that the N.S.A.’s collection and examination of Americans’ communications data to track possible terrorists does not run afoul of the Fourth Amendment, the officials said.

Continue reading at:  http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/us/in-secret-court-vastly-broadens-powers-of-nsa.html?hp&_r=0

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Koch Brothers’ New Pledge for Planet Destruction…

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Sprawling Into the Fire Zone

From Counter-Punch:  http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/07/08/sprawl-in-the-fire-zone/

How Much Longer can Homes be Banked, Built, and Sold in Fires’ Way?

by LANCE OLSEN
July 08, 2013

Although there has generally been silence about the potent roles they play, the banking, construction, and real estate industries have excelled at placing human homes and lives in the path of forest fires. At the same time, they have excelled at placing the same homes and people in the backyards of wildlife including, among many others, the grizzly bear. The consequences have been increasingly obvious, but the industries’ role still remains under the radar of many observers.

It would be easy to argue that, at least until recently, these three key industries didn’t know what they were doing, or were at least oblivious to its consequences. But as fires become more fierce and frequent, conflicts with wildlife become more apparent, and officials at all levels of government issuing repeated warnings of risk, it’s getting harder and harder to think that these industries can claim the kind of innocence that comes with ignorance.

It’s also pretty easy to understand that this trio of influential industries can claim, with some justification, that people make their own choices where to live. But it’s just as true that most of the people who move into these fire-prone and wildlife-occupied areas would have a hard time doing it without at least some help from bankers, builders, and the real estate industry.

It seems time for these industries to accept a more positive role. For example, bankers evaluating loans could and should consider whether they are putting money into real estate at risk of burning. This need becomes more pressing if, as seems possible, fire insurance becomes hard to get or costs an arm and a leg to buy. Realtors could also disclose that the land or home a person contemplates buying is in fire-prone terrain. Not doing so leaves unsuspecting customers vulnerable to surprises that they may not want.

Bankers and realtors could and should also advise borrowers that they are buying land in the backyards of, say, mountain lions and bears, or are buying a home already placed in the lions’ and bears’ backyard, and may end up finding the likes of lion and bear continuing to use that land. Here too, not doing so leaves customers vulnerable to problems that they may not expect and certainly don’t want.

These problems clearly leave governments and taxpayers with unwanted costs, most prominently including the increasing cost of defending homes and lives from forest fire.  If the banking, building, and real estate industry were held responsible for picking up a fair share of these costs, the Forest Service budget wouldn’t be so badly busted by firefighting expenses.

Continue reading at:  http://www.counterpunch.org/2013/07/08/sprawl-in-the-fire-zone/

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Whatever happened to “green jobs”?

From Grist:  http://grist.org/climate-energy/whatever-happened-to-green-jobs/

By Chris Mooney
8 Jul 2013

If you watched President Obama’s major speech on climate change, you may have noticed a recurrent phrase: “our children.” The president said the word “children” 15 separate times in the speech. He also spoke repeatedly about “future generations” and how a sweltering planet imperils them. The threat of climate itself, meanwhile, garnered considerable scientific detail in the speech, replete with references to dangerous and destructive impacts that are already occurring — from rising seas to parched land and torched forests.

“I refuse to condemn your generation and future generations to a planet that’s beyond fixing,” the president said.

When you stop and think about it for a minute, the messaging change here is pretty extraordinary. After all, four years ago the administration’s central talking point on climate change did not mention climate change. Rather, the idea was that greening our economy would confer a major benefit in the form of a profusion of green jobs. “It’s ironic that the administration, which helped launch ‘Don’t talk about climate change, talk about economics and jobs,’ has flipped to ‘Let’s talk about climate change and frame it in moral terms,’” says Joe Romm, a former Clinton administration clean energy official and editor of the leading climate blog Climate Progress. Meanwhile, as the Google Trends search below shows, interest in “green jobs” peaked early in Obama’s first term and has been declining ever since.

 

So how — and why — did Obama finally change how he pitches climate action to the public?

To answer that question, let’s first warp back to the economically torturous spring of 2009. Such was the backdrop for a now infamous high-level White House meeting with environmentalists, in which members of the green community were reportedly instructed not to talk about the science of climate change. That wasn’t going to be the White House’s message, they learned — rather, the focus would be on clean energy and jobs. Thus was the groundwork laid for Obama’s later “climate silence,” as increasingly fed-up climate hawk activists began to put it.

Continue reading at:  http://grist.org/climate-energy/whatever-happened-to-green-jobs/

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