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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

For McCain, Self-Confidence on Ethics Poses Its Own Risk

Senator John McCain with senators Fred Thompson, Russell Feingold and Paul Wellstone, who were part of an effort to pass a campaign finance reform bill in 1996.

WASHINGTON — Early in Senator John McCain’s first run for the White House eight years ago, waves of anxiety swept through his small circle of advisers.

A female lobbyist had been turning up with him at fund-raisers, visiting his offices and accompanying him on a client’s corporate jet. Convinced the relationship had become romantic, some of his top advisers intervened to protect the candidate from himself — instructing staff members to block the woman’s access, privately warning her away and repeatedly confronting him, several people involved in the campaign said on the condition of anonymity.

When news organizations reported that Mr. McCain had written letters to government regulators on behalf of the lobbyist’s client, the former campaign associates said, some aides feared for a time that attention would fall on her involvement.

Mr. McCain, 71, and the lobbyist, Vicki Iseman, 40, both say they never had a romantic relationship. But to his advisers, even the appearance of a close bond with a lobbyist whose clients often had business before the Senate committee Mr. McCain led threatened the story of redemption and rectitude that defined his political identity.

It had been just a decade since an official favor for a friend with regulatory problems had nearly ended Mr. McCain’s political career by ensnaring him in the Keating Five scandal. In the years that followed, he reinvented himself as the scourge of special interests, a crusader for stricter ethics and campaign finance rules, a man of honor chastened by a brush with shame.

But the concerns about Mr. McCain’s relationship with Ms. Iseman underscored an enduring paradox of his post-Keating career. Even as he has vowed to hold himself to the highest ethical standards, his confidence in his own integrity has sometimes seemed to blind him to potentially embarrassing conflicts of interest.

Mr. McCain promised, for example, never to fly directly from Washington to Phoenix, his hometown, to avoid the impression of self-interest because he sponsored a law that opened the route nearly a decade ago. But like other lawmakers, he often flew on the corporate jets of business executives seeking his support, including the media moguls Rupert Murdoch, Michael R. Bloomberg and Lowell W. Paxson, Ms. Iseman’s client. (Last year he voted to end the practice.)

Mr. McCain helped found a nonprofit group to promote his personal battle for tighter campaign finance rules. But he later resigned as its chairman after news reports disclosed that the group was tapping the same kinds of unlimited corporate contributions he opposed, including those from companies seeking his favor. He has criticized the cozy ties between lawmakers and lobbyists, but is relying on corporate lobbyists to donate their time running his presidential race and recently hired a lobbyist to run his Senate office.

“He is essentially an honorable person,” said William P. Cheshire, a friend of Mr. McCain who as editorial page editor of The Arizona Republic defended him during the Keating Five scandal. “But he can be imprudent.”

Mr. Cheshire added, “That imprudence or recklessness may be part of why he was not more astute about the risks he was running with this shady operator,” Charles Keating, whose ties to Mr. McCain and four other lawmakers tainted their reputations in the savings and loan debacle.

During his current campaign for the Republican presidential nomination, Mr. McCain has played down his attacks on the corrupting power of money in politics, aware that the stricter regulations he championed are unpopular in his party. When the Senate overhauled lobbying and ethics rules last year, Mr. McCain stayed in the background.

With his nomination this year all but certain, though, he is reminding voters again of his record of reform. His campaign has already begun comparing his credentials with those of Senator Barack Obama, a Democratic contender who has made lobbying and ethics rules a centerpiece of his own pitch to voters.

“I would very much like to think that I have never been a man whose favor can be bought,” Mr. McCain wrote about his Keating experience in his 2002 memoir, “Worth the Fighting For.” “From my earliest youth, I would have considered such a reputation to be the most shameful ignominy imaginable. Yet that is exactly how millions of Americans viewed me for a time, a time that I will forever consider one of the worst experiences of my life.”

A drive to expunge the stain on his reputation in time turned into a zeal to cleanse Washington as well. The episode taught him that “questions of honor are raised as much by appearances as by reality in politics,” he wrote, “and because they incite public distrust they need to be addressed no less directly than we would address evidence of expressly illegal corruption.”

A Formative Scandal

Mr. McCain started his career like many other aspiring politicians, eagerly courting the wealthy and powerful. A Vietnam war hero and Senate liaison for the Navy, he arrived in Arizona in 1980 after his second marriage, to Cindy Hensley, the heiress to a beer fortune there. He quickly started looking for a Congressional district where he could run.

Mr. Keating, a Phoenix financier and real estate developer, became an early sponsor and, soon, a friend. He was a man of great confidence and daring, Mr. McCain recalled in his memoir. “People like that appeal to me,” he continued. “I have sometimes forgotten that wisdom and a strong sense of public responsibility are much more admirable qualities.”

During Mr. McCain’s four years in the House, Mr. Keating, his family and his business associates contributed heavily to his political campaigns. The banker gave Mr. McCain free rides on his private jet, a violation of Congressional ethics rules (he later said it was an oversight and paid for the trips). They vacationed together in the Bahamas. And in 1986, the year Mr. McCain was elected to the Senate, his wife joined Mr. Keating in investing in an Arizona shopping mall.

Mr. Keating had taken over the Lincoln Savings and Loan Association and used its federally insured deposits to gamble on risky real estate and other investments. He pressed Mr. McCain and other lawmakers to help hold back federal banking regulators.

For years, Mr. McCain complied. At Mr. Keating’s request, he wrote several letters to regulators, introduced legislation and helped secure the nomination of a Keating associate to a banking regulatory board.

By early 1987, though, the thrift was careering toward disaster. Mr. McCain agreed to join several senators, eventually known as the Keating Five, for two private meetings with regulators to urge them to ease up. “Why didn’t I fully grasp the unusual appearance of such a meeting?” Mr. McCain later lamented in his memoir.

When Lincoln went bankrupt in 1989 — one of the biggest collapses of the savings and loan crisis, costing taxpayers $3.4 billion — the Keating Five became infamous. The scandal sent Mr. Keating to prison and ended the careers of three senators, who were censured in 1991 for intervening. Mr. McCain, who had been a less aggressive advocate for Mr. Keating than the others, was reprimanded only for “poor judgment” and was re-elected the next year.

Some people involved think Mr. McCain got off too lightly. William Black, one of the banking regulators the senator met with, argued that Mrs. McCain’s investment with Mr. Keating created an obvious conflict of interest for her husband. (Mr. McCain had said a prenuptial agreement divided the couple’s assets.) He should not be able to “put this behind him,” Mr. Black said. “It sullied his integrity.”

Mr. McCain has since described the episode as a unique humiliation. “If I do not repress the memory, its recollection still provokes a vague but real feeling that I had lost something very important,” he wrote in his memoir. “I still wince thinking about it.”

A New Chosen Cause

After the Republican takeover of the Senate in 1994, Mr. McCain decided to try to put some of the lessons he had learned into law. He started by attacking earmarks, the pet projects that individual lawmakers could insert anonymously into the fine print of giant spending bills, a recipe for corruption. But he quickly moved on to other targets, most notably political fund-raising.

Mr. McCain earned the lasting animosity of many conservatives, who argue that his push for fund-raising restrictions trampled free speech, and of many of his Senate colleagues, who bristled that he was preaching to them so soon after his own repentance. In debates, his party’s leaders challenged him to name a single senator he considered corrupt (he refused).

“We used to joke that each of us was the only one eating alone in our caucus,” said Senator Russ Feingold, Democrat of Wisconsin, who became Mr. McCain’s partner on campaign finance efforts.

Mr. McCain appeared motivated less by the usual ideas about good governance than by a more visceral disapproval of the gifts, meals and money that influence seekers shower on lawmakers, Mr. Feingold said. “It had to do with his sense of honor,” he said. “He saw this stuff as cheating.”

Mr. McCain made loosening the grip of special interests the central cause of his 2000 presidential campaign, inviting scrutiny of his own ethics. His Republican rival, George W. Bush, accused him of “double talk” for soliciting campaign contributions from companies with interests that came before the powerful Senate commerce committee, of which Mr. McCain was chairman. Mr. Bush’s allies called Mr. McCain “sanctimonious.”

At one point, his campaign invited scores of lobbyists to a fund-raiser at the Willard Hotel in Washington. While Bush supporters stood mocking outside, the McCain team tried to defend his integrity by handing the lobbyists buttons reading “ McCain voted against my bill.” Mr. McCain himself skipped the event, an act he later called “cowardly.”

By 2002, he had succeeded in passing the McCain-Feingold Act, which transformed American politics by banning “soft money,” the unlimited donations from corporations, unions and the rich that were funneled through the two political parties to get around previous laws.

One of his efforts, though, seemed self-contradictory. In 2001, he helped found the nonprofit Reform Institute to promote his cause and, in the process, his career. It collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in unlimited donations from companies that lobbied the Senate commerce committee. Mr. McCain initially said he saw no problems with the financing, but he severed his ties to the institute in 2005, complaining of “bad publicity” after news reports of the arrangement.

Like other presidential candidates, he has relied on lobbyists to run his campaigns. Since a cash crunch last summer, several of them — including his campaign manager, Rick Davis, who represented companies before Mr. McCain’s Senate panel — have been working without pay, a gift that could be worth tens of thousands of dollars.

In recent weeks, Mr. McCain has hired another lobbyist, Mark Buse, to run his Senate office. In his case, it was a round trip through the revolving door: Mr. Buse had directed Mr. McCain’s committee staff for seven years before leaving in 2001 to lobby for telecommunications companies.

Mr. McCain’s friends dismiss questions about his ties to lobbyists, arguing that he has too much integrity to let such personal connections influence him.

“Unless he gives you special treatment or takes legislative action against his own views, I don’t think his personal and social relationships matter,” said Charles Black, a friend and campaign adviser who has previously lobbied the senator for aviation, broadcasting and tobacco concerns.

Concerns in a Campaign

Mr. McCain’s confidence in his ability to distinguish personal friendships from compromising connections was at the center of questions advisers raised about Ms. Iseman.

The lobbyist, a partner at the firm Alcalde & Fay, represented telecommunications companies for whom Mr. McCain’s commerce committee was pivotal. Her clients contributed tens of thousands of dollars to his campaigns.

Mr. Black said Mr. McCain and Ms. Iseman were friends and nothing more. But in 1999 she began showing up so frequently in his offices and at campaign events that staff members took notice. One recalled asking, “Why is she always around?”

That February, Mr. McCain and Ms. Iseman attended a small fund-raising dinner with several clients at the Miami-area home of a cruise-line executive and then flew back to Washington along with a campaign aide on the corporate jet of one of her clients, Paxson Communications. By then, according to two former McCain associates, some of the senator’s advisers had grown so concerned that the relationship had become romantic that they took steps to intervene.

A former campaign adviser described being instructed to keep Ms. Iseman away from the senator at public events, while a Senate aide recalled plans to limit Ms. Iseman’s access to his offices.

In interviews, the two former associates said they joined in a series of confrontations with Mr. McCain, warning him that he was risking his campaign and career. Both said Mr. McCain acknowledged behaving inappropriately and pledged to keep his distance from Ms. Iseman. The two associates, who said they had become disillusioned with the senator, spoke independently of each other and provided details that were corroborated by others.

Separately, a top McCain aide met with Ms. Iseman at Union Station in Washington to ask her to stay away from the senator. John Weaver, a former top strategist and now an informal campaign adviser, said in an e-mail message that he arranged the meeting after “a discussion among the campaign leadership” about her.

“Our political messaging during that time period centered around taking on the special interests and placing the nation’s interests before either personal or special interest,” Mr. Weaver continued. “Ms. Iseman’s involvement in the campaign, it was felt by us, could undermine that effort.”

Mr. Weaver added that the brief conversation was only about “her conduct and what she allegedly had told people, which made its way back to us.” He declined to elaborate.

It is not clear what effect the warnings had; the associates said their concerns receded in the heat of the campaign.

Ms. Iseman acknowledged meeting with Mr. Weaver, but disputed his account.

“I never discussed with him alleged things I had ‘told people,’ that had made their way ‘back to’ him,” she wrote in an e-mail message. She said she never received special treatment from Mr. McCain’s office.

Mr. McCain said that the relationship was not romantic and that he never showed favoritism to Ms. Iseman or her clients. “I have never betrayed the public trust by doing anything like that,” he said. He made the statements in a call to Bill Keller, the executive editor of The New York Times, to complain about the paper’s inquiries.

The senator declined repeated interview requests, beginning in December. He also would not comment about the assertions that he had been confronted about Ms. Iseman, Mr. Black said Wednesday.

Mr. Davis and Mark Salter, Mr. McCain’s top strategists in both of his presidential campaigns, disputed accounts from the former associates and aides and said they did not discuss Ms. Iseman with the senator or colleagues.

“I never had any good reason to think that the relationship was anything other than professional, a friendly professional relationship,” Mr. Salter said in an interview.

He and Mr. Davis also said Mr. McCain had frequently denied requests from Ms. Iseman and the companies she represented. In 2006, Mr. McCain sought to break up cable subscription packages, which some of her clients opposed. And his proposals for satellite distribution of local television programs fell short of her clients’ hopes.

The McCain aides said the senator sided with Ms. Iseman’s clients only when their positions hewed to his principles

A champion of deregulation, Mr. McCain wrote letters in 1998 and 1999 to the Federal Communications Commission urging it to uphold marketing agreements allowing a television company to control two stations in the same city, a crucial issue for Glencairn Ltd., one of Ms. Iseman’s clients. He introduced a bill to create tax incentives for minority ownership of stations; Ms. Iseman represented several businesses seeking such a program. And he twice tried to advance legislation that would permit a company to control television stations in overlapping markets, an important issue for Paxson.

In late 1999, Ms. Iseman asked Mr. McCain’s staff to send a letter to the commission to help Paxson, now Ion Media Networks, on another matter. Mr. Paxson was impatient for F.C.C. approval of a television deal, and Ms. Iseman acknowledged in an e-mail message to The Times that she had sent to Mr. McCain’s staff information for drafting a letter urging a swift decision.

Mr. McCain complied. He sent two letters to the commission, drawing a rare rebuke for interference from its chairman. In an embarrassing turn for the campaign, news reports invoked the Keating scandal, once again raising questions about intervening for a patron.

Mr. McCain’s aides released all of his letters to the F.C.C. to dispel accusations of favoritism, and aides said the campaign had properly accounted for four trips on the Paxson plane. But the campaign did not report the flight with Ms. Iseman. Mr. McCain’s advisers say he was not required to disclose the flight, but ethics lawyers dispute that.

Recalling the Paxson episode in his memoir, Mr. McCain said he was merely trying to push along a slow-moving bureaucracy, but added that he was not surprised by the criticism given his history.

“Any hint that I might have acted to reward a supporter,” he wrote, “would be taken as an egregious act of hypocrisy.”

Statement by McCain

Mr. McCain’s presidential campaign issued the following statement Wednesday night:

“It is a shame that The New York Times has lowered its standards to engage in a hit-and-run smear campaign. John McCain has a 24-year record of serving our country with honor and integrity. He has never violated the public trust, never done favors for special interests or lobbyists, and he will not allow a smear campaign to distract from the issues at stake in this election.

“Americans are sick and tired of this kind of gutter politics, and there is nothing in this story to suggest that John McCain has ever violated the principles that have guided his career.”

Original here

MIKE BLOOMBERG CLAIMS VOTE 'FRAUD’


February 19, 2008 -- Mayor Bloomberg charged yesterday that "fraud" was behind the unofficial results in the New York Democratic presidential primary that produced zero votes for Barack Obama in some districts.

"If you want to call it significant undercounting, I guess that's a euphemism for fraud," said the mayor.

Unofficial tallies on election night gave Obama no votes in 78 out of more than 6,000 election districts.

Original here

Message from Barack: Major news

Samuel --

We learned something extraordinary since I wrote to you last night.

We've crunched all the numbers and discovered that we are within striking distance of something historic: one million people donating to this campaign.

Think about that ... nearly one million people taking ownership of this movement, five dollars or twenty-five dollars at a time.

We're already more than 900,000 strong, including over half-a-million donating so far this year. This unprecedented foundation of support has built a campaign that has shaken the status quo and proven that ordinary people can compete in a political process too often dominated by special interests.

Unlike Senator Clinton or Senator McCain, we haven't taken a dime from Washington lobbyists or special interest PACs. Our campaign is responsible to no one but the people.

One million donors would be a remarkable feat -- something that's never been done before in a presidential primary and something no one ever thought would be possible for us. And your generosity made it possible.

But it's going to take an incredible organizing effort to bring in 100,000 new donors before March 4th.

Be a part of this historic effort. Make a donation as part of our matching program, and you will bring in a first-time donor by doubling the impact of their contribution. You can even choose to exchange notes and let them know why you are part of this movement.

There's less than two weeks until March 4th, but you can be part of this historic push right now. Make your matching donation here:

https://donate.barackobama.com/promise

We started this improbable journey a little over a year ago in Springfield, Illinois.

And because you've joined together to make your voices heard, this journey isn't looking as improbable anymore.

Since our victory on February 5th, we've won ten straight contests.

But on March 4th, we face a huge challenge in Texas and Ohio, who will vote along with Rhode Island and Vermont. We are behind in the big states and need as many people involved as possible if we're going to win.

If we can reach our goal of one million donors by March 4th, we can send a powerful message that the Washington establishment and big-money interests cannot ignore.

As one million people with one voice, we can tell them that their days of dominating Washington are coming to an end -- the old politics are crumbling and a new voice is breaking through. Our voice.

Will you make a matching donation now to make it happen?

https://donate.barackobama.com/promise

I learned the power of ordinary people coming together as a community organizer on the South Side of Chicago.

I worked side-by-side with people who had been laid off from steel plants that were moved overseas. These were people who needed new jobs to rebuild their lives, and their political leaders were ignoring them.

But even though the odds were stacked against them, they discovered that by coming together with one voice, they could no longer be ignored.

When we launched this campaign, we knew we were up against similar odds. We knew we'd be running against a massive political machine with deep ties to the Washington establishment.

We knew it wouldn't be easy.

But if we can do this, we're not just going to win an election. We're going to change our country.

Thank you so much,

Barack

Original here

Wolfson is dishonest: They are going after pledged delegates

I’m in Vegas and last night myself and a dozen or so other Obama supporters were at the Culinary Union calling our Obama delegates. I probably made about 100 calls and about 95 said Hillary Clinton’s campaign has been calling them "all day" or at least once already.

The fact that they're calling them isn't a big deal, NV's Democratic party put out a list of delegates that doesn't include who the individual is a delegate for. However, we crossed their list, with our list of supporters and we're calling OUR delegates.

What gets me heated is, everyone who said Hillary's campaign called them also said they were encouraged to switch their support from Obama to Hillary . One man even said the person who called him "wouldn't let it go" and when he angrily told them he wasn't going to drop his support for Obama, they just hung up the phone on him.

The Clinton campaign has called me three times already since 2pm yesterday.

Any other Obama supporters in the Las Vegas area, please come to the Culinary Union or SEIU and phone bank with us from 5-9pm. Friday register early for the Clark County Democratic Convention in between the times of 4 and 9pm at Bally's Hotel. You can register the day of the convention at Bally's between 8 and 10am. The convention starts at 10am. There is no registration fee.

If you want to volunteer, show up at bally's 3pm on Friday.

Original here

John Baer: How Pa. extension benefited Clinton

HERE'S A LITTLE political banana peel.

Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign failed to file a full slate of convention delegate candidates for Pennsylvania's April 22 primary.

This despite the possibility the primary proves critical and despite Clinton owning the full-throated support of Gov. Rendell, state Democratic Party leadership, Mayor Nutter and, presumably, the organizational skill all that entails.

And despite a Rendell-ordered extension of the filing deadline that could be viewed as more than just coincidental.

"There are a number of Clinton delegates that did not file for reasons of illness or other issues," Democratic state chairman T.J. Rooney conceded yesterday after being questioned by the Daily News.

He initially said he was unaware of the fact, but confirmed it after checking with Clinton's state delegate petition organizer.

It appears Clinton came up 10 or 11 candidates short across a number of congressional districts, including two in Philadelphia.

That's close to 10 percent of the 103 delegates to be decided by voters.

It appears the shortage would've been double that if Rendell hadn't extended last week's candidate filing deadline by a day and a half, ostensibly due to bad weather.

This at a time when Clinton's campaign, like Barack Obama's - which did file a full slate in the state - hoards delegates like diamonds.

Going into today's Wisconsin primary, Obama leads Clinton by just 61 delegates (1,322 to 1,262 with 2,025 needed to win).

But Clinton's faux pas is more of an image problem than a practical one.

Under Democratic Party rules (and does any organization on the planet have more rules or more complex rules?) a presidential candidate winning in a congressional district gets delegates from that district (assigned at a later date) whether he or she files slates delegates or not.

Still.

For a national campaign stressing competence, experience, "ready day one," one might expect a full slate in what could be a key state.

Especially given the backing of big-shot party leaders.

"The Clinton people had the support of the ward structure here in Philadelphia," says Philly attorney Seth Williams, Obama's eastern Pennsylvania coordinator. "We just had grass-roots volunteers."

Pennsylvania has a total of 188 Democratic delegates, including superdelegates, at-large delegates, party leaders and elected officials.

Delegates elected by voters run in the primary after filing petitions with 250 signatures and a $25 filing fee.

The filing deadline was Feb. 12 at 5 p.m. But it was extended by Rendell until noon last Thursday, easing Clinton's filing woes.

The official announcement of the extension cited "winter weather," accidents and the "closure of interstates at various times."

But even with the extension, Clinton came up short, including what appears to be four candidates shy in Philly.

One is Erin Dougherty, 27, daughter of union boss and state Senate candidate John Dougherty.

She decided not to file, according to her father, to prevent voter confusion over more than one Dougherty on the same ballot.

Elsewhere, say Rooney and other Clinton supporters, one candidate's mother died suddenly, another candidate was ill and another had to deal with a property foreclosure.

The shortfall was brought to my attention by western Pennsylvania attorney Jack Hanna, a Democratic state party regional caucus chairman and Obama supporter.

Hanna says before the deadline extension Clinton could have been 21 delegate candidates short. One late filing was by former Mayor John Street.

"It seems to me they did not pay sufficient attention to the details," Hanna says.

And it seems to me, in a state that could be important, in a state known for bad winter weather, a forward-looking campaign might be, well, more forward-looking.

You know, so as not to slip up. *

Send e-mail to baerj@phillynews.com.

For recent columns, go to

http://go.philly.com/baer

Original here

Obama wins Hawaii caucuses

Maybe they should've called it " Hawaii 10-0," as Sen. Barack Obama now has ten straight wins after besting Sen. Hillary Clinton in Tuesday's Hawaii caucuses.

Neither Obama nor Clinton campaigned in person for Hawaii's 20 delegate votes, but both recently had surrogates in the 50th state -- Clinton employed daughter Chelsea and Obama had half-sister Maya Soetero-Ng appear on his behalf. Obama, who was born and spent part of his youth on Hawaii, ran radio ads in recent weeks stressing his "native son" credentials.

On Tuesday night, in an e-mail to his supporters before the Hawaii victory was announced, Obama said winning there could foretell future successes: "If we win in Hawaii, it will be ten straight victories -- a streak no one thought possible, and the best position we can be in when Ohio, Texas, Rhode Island and Vermont vote on March 4th."

In satellite television interviews with Hawaii affiliates Tuesday, Clinton used her time to reiterate criticism about Obama lifting lines from the speeches of Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, and arguing that such actions reflect a difference between her and her rival.

"The real issue is if your entire candidacy is about words, they should be your own words. And you may know that both Deval Patrick and Sen. Obama have the same consultant and adviser, who is apparently putting words in both of their mouths. And I think that's a serious question to be raised because, obviously, we're asking the people of Hawaii to hire us for the toughest job in the world," she told KGMB TV 9, the CBS affiliate in Honolulu.

To another Honolulu station, Clinton said, "it's not us making this charge. It's the media."

Clinton continued, "You know, the media is finally examining my opponent, which I think is important because we're trying to pick a president, someone for the toughest job in the world. So I think the media is going to be putting forth whatever facts and information it has for voters to assess on their own."

The New York Times reported on Monday that similarities existed between an Obama speech in Wisconsin over the weekend and one delivered by Patrick in 2006. The Times also noted that the similarities "were highlighted by a rival campaign that did not want to be identified."

Beyond Tuesday's biggest delegate state of Wisconsin, where Obama also won decisively, Washington state Republicans and Democrats held primaries Tuesday, although Democrats will award delegates based on the Feb. 9 caucuses there. Washington Republicans will split the 37 delegates between the winners of the caucuses, which McCain won, and Tuesday night's primary, which McCain also was winning early Wednesday morning.

Original here

Networks Interrupt Clinton Speech For Obama

Sen. Hillary Clinton began giving a speech on Tuesday night shortly after Wisconsin's results came in. But within minutes, Sen. Barack Obama appeared in Texas to give his victory speech, and the networks cut Clinton off. Ouch. Watch it:


Fort Hood soldiers breaking the silence in war in Iraq


A growing number of active duty soldiers or recent Iraq war veterans are speaking up about the war in Iraq.

And with the number of soldiers speaking up about their experiences in Iraq via online forums, blogs and pamphlets, some vets feel it's their duty to let the American public know the truth.

"The honest truth is that if the American people knew what was going on over there everyday, they would be raising their voices too. They would be saying, 'Hey, bring those guys home," Sgt. Selena Coppa said.

Coppa blames lawmakers in Washington for filtering the facts on the war in Iraq. She said there's no real end in sight.

"There is a cost to this war. This war is being paid in American blood, in my soldier's blood. And that is not okay," Coppa said.

"We lost really good friends, really good leaders who died in Iraq. From my perspective, it didn't make any sense, we didn't
accomplish anything, and I talked to a lot of other soldiers who feel the same way," Fort Hood soldier Casey Porter said.

He started the local branch of IVAW at Fort Hood.

Porter is spending his numbered days in the U.S. passing out pamphlets before he is redeployed this summer.

He said he feels it's his obligation to his fallen brothers to take action. Local IVAW members are trying to let other soldiers know it's okay to do the same.

"This is well within the rights that service members have, but not many soldiers know that they do have," Fort Hood soldier Ronn Cantu said.

He's also home between deployments to Iraq.

"I honestly thought I might not live through my second tour, so I
thought, you know if I'm going to die anyway, I need to say the
things I need to say," Cantu said.

Those things are now being said loud and clear.

Sunday, a group took part in what they call a blitz, plastering busy areas of Killeen with informational pamphlets about their mission, and soldiers' rights.

Original here

Prodigy Of Mobb Deep Speaks On Ron Paul And Obama


Bush: 19% approval

19 percent:

President Bush’s latest approval rating, according to an American Research Group poll, down from 34 percent just one month ago. Seventy-seven percent of Americans disapprove of the job he is doing, and 79 percent disapprove of his handling of the economy. (HT: TP reader Jeff)

Original here

Lou Dobbs - NAFTA Superhighway 2/19/08


Thousands of Students March 7 Miles To Vote

Early voting starts today in Texas. In Waller County, a primarily rural county about 60 miles outside Houston, the county made the decision to offer only one early voting location: at the County Courthouse in Hempstead, TX, the county seat.

Prairie View A&M students organized to protest the decision, because they felt it hindered their ability to vote. For background, Prairie View A&M is one of Texas’ historically Black universities. It has a very different demographic feel than the rest of the county. There has been a long history of dispute over what the students feel is disenfranchisement. There was a lot of outrage in 2006, when students felt they were unfairly denied the right to vote when their registrations somehow did not get processed.

According to an article in today’s Houston Chronicle:

Waller County has faced numerous lawsuits involving voting rights in the past 30 years and remains under investigation by the Texas Attorney General’s Office based on complaints by local black leaders. Those allegations, concerning the November 2006 general election, related to voting machine failures, inadequate staffing and long delays for voting results.

The article adds,

“I was angry after registering to vote in the 2006 election only to be turned away at the voting booth,” said sophomore Dee Dee Williams.

So what are the students doing?

1000 students, along with an additional 1000 friends and supporters, are this morning walking the 7.3 miles between Prairie View and Hempstead in order to vote today. According to the piece I saw on the news (there’s no video up, so I can’t link to it), the students plan to all vote today. There are only 2 machines available at the courthouse for early voting, so they hope to tie them up all day and into the night.

I love stories like this. In the face of an obvious ploy to suppress the vote, these young people stood up for their rights and showed that they will not be cowed. Republicans should be worried, because this is a committed electorate.

Original here

CIA Operation Similar To Tactic Obama Advocated, Bush Criticized

On the front page of Tuesday's Washington Post was an article detailing how in late January U.S. forces, acting with autonomy inside Pakistan, were able to target and kill Abu Laith al-Libi, a senior al-Qaeda commander.

The strike, which came without the Pakistani government's knowledge and helped eliminate an individual who had long eluded the spy-agency's capture, was an obvious boon in the War on Terror. But the political implications of the operation were just as fascinating.

In August, Sen. Barack Obama had made the argument that, as president, he would target Al Qaeda officials in Pakistan even without the country's acquiescence -- the type of attack that, six months later, proved to be successful.

At the time, Obama was roundly criticized for his remarks, both by his Democratic competitors for the White House and by the Bush administration.

"We think that our approach to Pakistan is not only one that respects the sovereignty of Pakistan, but also is designed so that we are working in cooperation," said then-Press Secretary Tony Snow.

And just one week ago, President Bush himself lambasted Obama's approach to foreign affairs.

"I certainly don't know what he believes in," Bush said on February 10, about Obama. "The only foreign policy thing I remember he said was he's going to attack Pakistan and embrace Ahmadinejad."

To be sure, not everything is known about the extent and execution of the CIA's operation. But, on the surface, it carries similarities to Obama's stated approach towards Pakistan's terrorism problem, the same approach Bush trivialized.

Here is Obama's August 2 statement at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars:

"I understand that President Musharraf has his own challenges... But let me make this clear. There are terrorists holed up in those mountains who murdered 3,000 Americans. They are plotting to strike again. ... If we have actionable intelligence about high-value terrorist targets and President Musharraf will not act, we will."
And here are some excerpts from Tuesday's Washington Post article.
In the predawn hours of Jan. 29, a CIA Predator aircraft flew in a slow arc above the Pakistani town of Mir Ali. The drone's operator, relying on information secretly passed to the CIA by local informants, clicked a computer mouse and sent the first of two Hellfire missiles hurtling toward a cluster of mud-brick buildings a few miles from the town center.


The missiles killed Abu Laith al-Libi, a senior al-Qaeda commander and a man who had repeatedly eluded the CIA's dragnet. It was the first successful strike against al-Qaeda's core leadership in two years, and it involved, U.S. officials say, an unusual degree of autonomy by the CIA inside Pakistan.

It is an approach that some U.S. officials say could be used more frequently this year, particularly if a power vacuum results from yesterday's election and associated political tumult. The administration also feels an increased sense of urgency about undermining al-Qaeda before President Bush leaves office, making it less hesitant, said one official familiar with the incident.
Having requested the Pakistani government's official permission for such strikes on previous occasions, only to be put off or turned down, this time the U.S. spy agency did not seek approval. The government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was notified only as the operation was underway, according to the officials, who insisted on anonymity because of diplomatic sensitivities.

Original here

The Government Is Wasting Your Tax Dollars!

You've Been Had!

Almost a decade ago, the federal government dropped $100 million for an Earth-monitoring satellite that never made it into space. Today it sits in a closet in Maryland. Cost to taxpayers for storing it: $1 million a year. And that's just what's hiding in one closet. Who knows what's in the rest of them? Reader's Digest decided to find out.

Because we think the government should be held to at least the same standards as a publicly traded company, and because as taxpayers, we're America's shareholders, we performed an audit of sorts of the federal books. We're not economists, but we do have common sense. We tried to be apolitical and got help from Congressional staffers from both parties, as well as various watchdog groups and agencies (see list*). In the end, we found that the federal government wastes nearly $1 trillion every year.

That's roughly equal to the amount collected annually by the Internal Revenue Service in personal income taxes. Put another way, it's also equal to about one-third of the country's $2.9 trillion total annual budget. And reclaiming that lost trillion could help wipe out the country's annual budget deficit, improve education, and provide health insurance for those who don't have it.

So how do you define "waste"? David Walker of the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a federal watchdog agency, calls it "the government's failure to give taxpayers the most for their money." For our part, we used the kind of household test you would use on a piece of meat sitting in your refrigerator: If it smells rotten, it's waste. And there is plenty to sniff out. Our government regularly pays for products and services it never gets, wildly overpays companies to do things it could do more cheaply itself, loses money outright due to lax accounting and oversight, fails to collect what it's owed, and antes up for unnecessary programs.

*Source list: OMB Watch, Tax Payers for Common Sense, Citizens Against Government Waste, Cato Institute, Heritage Foundation, Government Accountability Office

How Does It Happen?

How exactly does the federal government fritter away your hard-earned tax dollars? We've identified what we consider ten of the worst ways. Now, we're not naive. We know that not everyone will agree on every ripoff we've flagged. And we know that even with excellent discipline and management, it's unlikely we could recover more than half of this waste. But hey, it's a start.

1. Taxes: Cheating Shows. The Internal Revenue Service estimates that the annual net tax gap—the difference between what's owed and what's collected—is $290 billion, more than double the average yearly sum spent on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

About $59 billion of that figure results from the underreporting and underpayment of employment taxes. Our broken system of immigration is another concern, with nearly eight million undocumented workers having a less-than-stellar relationship with the IRS. Getting more of them on the books could certainly help narrow that tax gap.

Going after the deadbeats would seem like an obvious move. Unfortunately, the IRS doesn't have the resources to adequately pursue big offenders and their high-powered tax attorneys. "The IRS is outgunned," says Walker, "especially when dealing with multinational corporations with offshore headquarters."

Another group that costs taxpayers billions: hedge fund and private equity managers. Many of these moguls make vast "incomes" yet pay taxes on a portion of those earnings at the paltry 15 percent capital gains rate, instead of the higher income tax rate. By some estimates, this loophole costs taxpayers more than $2.5 billion a year.

Oil companies are getting a nice deal too. The country hands them more than $2 billion a year in tax breaks. Says Walker, "Some of the sweetheart deals that were negotiated for drilling rights on public lands don't pass the straight-face test, especially given current crude oil prices." And Big Oil isn't alone. Citizens for Tax Justice estimates that corporations reap more than $123 billion a year in special tax breaks. Cut this in half and we could save about $60 billion.

The Tab*
Tax Shortfall: $290 billion (uncollected taxes) + $2.5 billion (undertaxed high rollers) + $60 billion (unwarranted tax breaks)
Starting Tab: $352.5 billion

2. Healthy Fixes. Medicare and Medicaid, which cover elderly and low-income patients respectively, eat up a growing portion of the federal budget. Investigations by Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) point to as much as $60 billion a year in fraud, waste and overpayments between the two programs. And Coburn is likely underestimating the problem.

The U.S. spends more than $400 per person on health care administration costs and insurance -- six times more than other industrialized nations.

That's because a 2003 Dartmouth Medical School study found that up to 30 percent of the $2 trillion spent in this country on medical care each year—including what's spent on Medicare and Medicaid—is wasted. And with the combined tab for those programs rising to some $665 billion this year, cutting costs by a conservative 15 percent could save taxpayers about $100 billion. Yet, rather than moving to trim fat, the government continues such questionable practices as paying private insurance companies that offer Medicare Advantage plans an average of 12 percent more per patient than traditional Medicare fee-for-service. Congress is trying to close this loophole, and doing so could save $15 billion per year, on average, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

Another money-wasting bright idea was to create a giant class of middlemen: Private bureaucrats who administer the Medicare drug program are monitored by federal bureaucrats—and the public pays for both. An October report by the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform estimated that this setup costs the government $10 billion per year in unnecessary administrative expenses and higher drug prices.

The Tab*
Wasteful Health Spending:
$60 billion (fraud, waste, overpayments) + $100 billion (modest 15 percent cost reduction) + $15 billion (closing the 12 percent loophole) + $10 billion (unnecessary Medicare administrative and drug costs)
Total $185 billion
Running Tab: $352.5 billion +$185 billion = $537.5 billion

Running Up Tabs

3. Military Mad Money. You'd think it would be hard to simply lose massive amounts of money, but given the lack of transparency and accountability, it's no wonder that eight of the Department of Defense's functions, including weapons procurement, have been deemed high risk by the GAO. That means there's a high probability that money—"tens of billions," according to Walker—will go missing or be otherwise wasted.

The DOD routinely hands out no-bid and cost-plus contracts, under which contractors get reimbursed for their costs plus a certain percentage of the contract figure. Such deals don't help hold down spending in the annual military budget of about $500 billion. That sum is roughly equal to the combined defense spending of the rest of the world's countries. It's also comparable, adjusted for inflation, with our largest Cold War-era defense budget. Maybe that's why billions of dollars are still being spent on high-cost weapons designed to counter Cold War-era threats, even though today's enemy is armed with cell phones and IEDs. (And that $500 billion doesn't include the billions to be spent this year in Iraq and Afghanistan. Those funds demand scrutiny, too, according to Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, who says, "One in six federal tax dollars sent to rebuild Iraq has been wasted.")

Meanwhile, the Pentagon admits it simply can't account for more than $1 trillion. Little wonder, since the DOD hasn't been fully audited in years. Hoping to change that, Brian Riedl of the Heritage Foundation is pushing Congress to add audit provisions to the next defense budget.

If wasteful spending equaling 10 percent of all spending were rooted out, that would free up some $50 billion. And if Congress cut spending on unnecessary weapons and cracked down harder on fraud, we could save tens of billions more.

The Tab*
Wasteful military spending: $100 billion (waste, fraud, unnecessary weapons)
Running Tab: $537.5 billion + $100 billion = $637.5 billion

4. Bad Seeds. The controversial U.S. farm subsidy program, part of which pays farmers not to grow crops, has become a giant welfare program for the rich, one that cost taxpayers nearly $20 billion last year.

Two of the best-known offenders: Kenneth Lay, the now-deceased Enron CEO, who got $23,326 for conservation land in Missouri from 1995 to 2005, and mogul Ted Turner, who got $590,823 for farms in four states during the same period. A Cato Institute study found that in 2005, two-thirds of the subsidies went to the richest 10 percent of recipients, many of whom live in New York City. Not only do these "farmers" get money straight from the government, they also often get local tax breaks, since their property is zoned as agricultural land. The subsidies raise prices for consumers, hurt third world farmers who can't compete, and are attacked in international courts as unfair trade.

Spend, Spend, Spend

5. Capital Waste. While there's plenty of ongoing annual operating waste, there's also a special kind of profligacy—call it capital waste—that pops up year after year. This is shoddy spending on big-ticket items that don't pan out. While what's being bought changes from year to year, you can be sure there will always be some costly items that aren't worth what the government pays for them.

Take this recent example: Since September 11, 2001, Congress has spent more than $4 billion to upgrade the Coast Guard's fleet. Today the service has fewer ships than it did before that money was spent, what 60 Minutes called "a fiasco that has set new standards for incompetence." Then there's the Future Imagery Architecture spy satellite program. As The New York Times recently reported, the technology flopped and the program was killed—but not before costing $4 billion. Or consider the FBI's infamous Trilogy computer upgrade: Its final stage was scrapped after a $170 million investment. Or the almost $1 billion the Federal Emergency Management Agency has wasted on unusable housing. The list goes on.

The Tab*
Wasteful Capital Spending: $30 billion
Running Tab: $657.5 billion + $30 billion = $687.5 billion

6. Fraud and Stupidity. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) wants the Social Security Administration to better monitor the veracity of people drawing disability payments from its $100 billion pot. By one estimate, roughly $1 billion is wasted each year in overpayments to people who work and earn more than the program's rules allow.

The federal Food Stamp Program gets ripped off too. Studies have shown that almost 5 percent, or more than $1 billion, of the payments made to people in the $30 billion program are in excess of what they should receive.

One person received $105,000 in excess disability payments over seven years.

There are plenty of other examples. Senator Coburn estimates that the feds own unused properties worth $18 billion and pay out billions more annually to maintain them. Guess it's simpler for bureaucrats to keep paying for the property than to go to the trouble of selling it.

The Tab*
General Fraud and Stupidity: $2 billion (disability and food stamp overpayment)
Running Tab: $687.5 billion + $2 billion = $689.5 billion

7. Pork Sausage. Congress doled out $29 billion in so-called earmarks—aka funds for legislators' pet projects—in 2006, according to Citizens Against Government Waste. That's three times the amount spent in 1999. Congress loves to deride this kind of spending, but lawmakers won't hesitate to turn around and drop $500,000 on a ballpark in Billings, Montana.

The most infamous earmark is surely the "bridge to nowhere"—a span that would have connected Ketchikan, Alaska, to nearby Gravina Island—at a cost of more than $220 million. After Hurricane Katrina struck New Orleans, Senator Coburn tried to redirect that money to repair the city's Twin Span Bridge. He failed when lawmakers on both sides of the aisle got behind the Alaska pork. (That money is now going to other projects in Alaska.) Meanwhile, this kind of spending continues at a time when our country's crumbling infrastructure—the bursting dams, exploding water pipes and collapsing bridges—could really use some investment. Cutting two-thirds of the $29 billion would be a good start.

What You Can Do

8. Welfare Kings. Corporate welfare is an easy thing for politicians to bark at, but it seems it's hard to bite the hand that feeds you. How else to explain why corporate welfare is on the rise? A Cato Institute report found that in 2006, corporations received $92 billion (including some in the form of those farm subsidies) to do what they do anyway—research, market and develop products. The recipients included plenty of names from the Fortune 500, among them IBM, GE, Xerox, Dow Chemical, Ford Motor Company, DuPont and Johnson & Johnson.

The Tab*
Corporate Welfare: $50 billion
Running Tab: $709.5 billion + $50 billion = $759.5 billion

9. Been There, Done That. The Rural Electrification Administration, created during the New Deal, was an example of government at its finest—stepping in to do something the private sector couldn't. Today, renamed the Rural Utilities Service, it's an example of a government that doesn't know how to end a program. "We established an entity to electrify rural America. Mission accomplished. But the entity's still there," says Walker. "We ought to celebrate success and get out of the business."

In a 2007 analysis, the Heritage Foundation found that hundreds of programs overlap to accomplish just a few goals. Ending programs that have met their goals and eliminating redundant programs could comfortably save taxpayers $30 billion a year.

The Tab*
Obsolete, Redundant Programs: $30 billion
Running Tab: $759.5 billion + $30 billion = $789.5 billion

10. Living on Credit. Here's the capper: Years of wasteful spending have put us in such a deep hole, we must squander even more to pay the interest on that debt. In 2007, the federal government carried a debt of $9 trillion and blew $252 billion in interest. Yes, we understand the federal government needs to carry a small debt for the Federal Reserve Bank to operate. But "small" isn't how we would describe three times the nation's annual budget. We need to stop paying so much in interest (and we think cutting $194 billion is a good target). Instead we're digging ourselves deeper: Congress had to raise the federal debt limit last September from $8.965 trillion to almost $10 trillion or the country would have been at legal risk of default. If that's not a wake-up call to get spending under control, we don't know what is.

The Tab*
Interest on National Debt: $194 billion
Final Tab: $789.5 billion + $194 billion = $983.5 billion

What YOU Can Do
Many believe our system is inherently broken. We think it can be fixed. As citizens and voters, we have to set a new agenda before the Presidential election. There are three things we need in order to prevent wasteful spending, according to the GAO's David Walker:

• Incentives for people to do the right thing.

• Transparency so we can tell if they've done the right thing.

• Accountability if they do the wrong thing.

Two out of three won't solve our problems.

So how do we make it happen? Demand it of our elected officials. If they fail to listen, then we turn them out of office. With its approval rating hovering around 11 percent in some polls, Congress might just start paying attention.

Start by writing to your Representatives. Talk to your family, friends and neighbors, and share this article. It's in everybody's interest.

Original here

Fired officer: Woman's black eyes, broken teeth from 'fall'

After Angela Garbarino was arrested in Shreveport, Louisiana last November on suspicion of drunk driving, she wound up lying on the police station floor in a pool of her own blood with two black eyes, a broken nose, two broken teeth, and other cuts and bruises.

Garbarino says that Officer Wiley Willis beat her up after turning off the police video camera. Willis's attorney insists that Garbarino slipped and fell when Willis tried to prevent her from leaving the room. However, Garbarino says that the extent of her injuries are proof that she was beaten.

The police video obtained by ABC News shows Garbarino demanding the right to make a phone call. "I have the right to call somebody right now and I know that," she yells. Officer Willis instead begins handcuffing her. She wiggles away, he pulls her back sharply by her wrists, and she hits the wall and falls on the floor.

Willis pushes her down into a chair three successive times as she repeatedly stands up again, increasingly distraught and screaming, "Get away from me!" Willis is finally shown leaning over her and asking, "Do you understand me?" to which she replies, "Yeah, I understand." Willis then walks over and turns off the camera.

When the video resumes, Garbarino is lying in the floor in a pool of her own blood. There is an apparent cut in what ABC aired, but according to KTBS in Shreveport, Willis turns Garbarino on her back, telling her, "Lay down, don’t move," and she replies, "I can't believe you just did what you just did. I really can't."

Willis has since been dismissed from the police force. KTBS states that "Willis was fired by Police Chief Henry Whitehorn earlier this month for how he treated Garbarino during the whole episode, not for her injuries."

Willis is appealing his dismissal, and his attorney insists that his client was following procedures in turning off the camera. According to KTBS, "Authorities familiar with Shreveport police policy said a person is read their rights and gets an explanation of what's going to happen next. That is followed by a sobriety test. If the person refuses, the officer can turn off the tape and take them to an adjoining room, handcuff them to a bench, fill out the paperwork and charge them."

However, experts suggested to ABC that Willis should have called for female backup when Garbarino began resisting. One criminologist stated, "I think we have a situation where the arrested person is refusing to cooperate and the police officer apparently overreacted."

The complete ABC story can be found here.

This video is from ABC's Good Morning America, broadcast February 19, 2008.


Original here

Supreme Court rejects ACLU challenge to wiretaps

The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the Bush administration's domestic spying program. However, the justices' decision Tuesday included no comment explaining why they turned down the appeal from the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Although we are deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s refusal to review this case, it is worth noting that today’s action says nothing about the case’s merits and does not suggest in any way an endorsement of the lower court’s decision. The court’s unwillingness to act makes it even more important that Congress insist on legislative safeguards that will protect civil liberties without jeopardizing national security," ACLU Legal Director Steven R. Shapiro said in a news release.

The setback comes as Congress spars with President Bush over whether to grant legal immunity to telecommunications companies. The ACLU and other groups say some 40 similar lawsuits pending against the private companies, rather than the government itself, are among the only means of oversight of Bush's warratnless wiretapping program.

“Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act intending to protect the rights of U.S. citizens and residents, and the president systematically broke that law over a period of more than five years," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. "It’s very disturbing that the president’s actions will not be reviewed by the Supreme Court. It shouldn’t be left to executive branch officials alone to determine what limits apply to their own surveillance activities and whether those limits are being honored. Allowing the executive branch to police itself flies in the face of the constitutional system of checks and balances.”

The court said plaintiffs represented by the ACLU could not sue the government because they could not prove their communications had been warrantlessly monitored by the National Security Agency. Shapiro also called it a "Catch-22" scenario because records of who the government spied on were classified.

The ACLU wanted the court to allow a lawsuit by the group and individuals over the warrantless wiretapping program. An appeals court dismissed the suit because the plaintiffs cannot prove their communications have been monitored.

The government has refused to turn over information about the closely guarded program that could reveal who has been under surveillance.

Developing...

(with wire reports)


Original here

Supreme Court rejects ACLU challenge to wiretaps

The Supreme Court rejected a challenge to the Bush administration's domestic spying program. However, the justices' decision Tuesday included no comment explaining why they turned down the appeal from the American Civil Liberties Union.

“Although we are deeply disappointed with the Supreme Court’s refusal to review this case, it is worth noting that today’s action says nothing about the case’s merits and does not suggest in any way an endorsement of the lower court’s decision. The court’s unwillingness to act makes it even more important that Congress insist on legislative safeguards that will protect civil liberties without jeopardizing national security," ACLU Legal Director Steven R. Shapiro said in a news release.

The setback comes as Congress spars with President Bush over whether to grant legal immunity to telecommunications companies. The ACLU and other groups say some 40 similar lawsuits pending against the private companies, rather than the government itself, are among the only means of oversight of Bush's warratnless wiretapping program.

“Congress enacted the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act intending to protect the rights of U.S. citizens and residents, and the president systematically broke that law over a period of more than five years," said Jameel Jaffer, Director of the ACLU’s National Security Project. "It’s very disturbing that the president’s actions will not be reviewed by the Supreme Court. It shouldn’t be left to executive branch officials alone to determine what limits apply to their own surveillance activities and whether those limits are being honored. Allowing the executive branch to police itself flies in the face of the constitutional system of checks and balances.”

The court said plaintiffs represented by the ACLU could not sue the government because they could not prove their communications had been warrantlessly monitored by the National Security Agency. Shapiro also called it a "Catch-22" scenario because records of who the government spied on were classified.

The ACLU wanted the court to allow a lawsuit by the group and individuals over the warrantless wiretapping program. An appeals court dismissed the suit because the plaintiffs cannot prove their communications have been monitored.

The government has refused to turn over information about the closely guarded program that could reveal who has been under surveillance.

Developing...

(with wire reports)


Original here