Opinion: Morning Examiner

Morning Examiner: Eric Holder’s surveillance state

Politics,Beltway Confidential,Conn Carroll,Morning Examiner,National Security,Eric Holder

Already under fire from conservatives and liberals for his broad surveillance of Associated Press and Fox News reporters, Attorney General Eric Holder is about to face much tougher questions from Congress after the Guardian reported yesterday that the National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of U.S. Verizon customers.

The “business records” loophole
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act does not allow the NSA to listen in on purely domestic phone calls. However, 50 USC 1861 (a.k.a. the Patriot Act), does allow the NSA to collect “business records” from communication companies, including numbers dialed and received, length of call, customer names, and customer financial information. Probable cause is not needed to collect this information since Americans do not have a privacy interest in the commercial transactions they undertake.

Taking FISA to extremes
While it was widely known the NSA could collect such data in relation to a specific authorized investigation, approved by the attorney general, the on-going and infinitely broad nature of the court order obtained by the Guardian is unprecedented. However, it does appear that Congress has been informed about this NSA program, and some members have been objecting to it for months.

The Guardian notes that Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., and Mark Udall, D-Colo., sent a letter to Holder last year writing “there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows.” “We believe,” they continued, “that most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of how these secret court opinions have interpreted” the “business records” provision of the Patriot Act.

Holder is scheduled to testify before the Senate Commerce Committee at 10:45 a.m. Thursday.

From The Washington Examiner
Editorial: What were IRS biggies really doing at the White House?
David Drucker: Key Democrats reject GOP immigration amendment
Sean Higgins: State regulator secretly wrote Maryland Chamber’s letter endorsing Perez for labor post
Joel Gehrke: Judge orders Kathleen Sebelius to put dying girl on adult lung transplant list
Byron York: Detroit burns its treasures
Conn Carroll: Will Republicans fall for Marco Rubio’s quick immigration fix?
Phil Klein: Yes, there’s still a debt problem
Cal Thomas: The coming Obamacare disaster

In Other News
NBC News, Health care law’s unpopularity reaches new highs: President Barack Obama’s signature health care reform law remains unpopular with the American public just months before it fully goes into effect, according to the new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll. The poll shows 49 percent of Americans say they believe the Affordable Care Act is a bad idea. That’s the highest number recorded on this question since the poll began measuring it in 2009.
The Wall Street Journal, IRS staff cite Washington link: IRS officials in Washington helped direct the probe of Tea Party groups, two employees in the agency’s Cincinnati office told investigators.
The New York Times, In personnel appointments, Obama takes assertive tack: Recent unapologetic selections reflect a conclusion in the West Wing that when it comes to choosing personnel, the president can never satisfy Republicans.
The Washington Post, Obama signals new approach on foreign policy: President Obama announced a major shuffle of his national security team on Wednesday, ushering out a cautious Washington insider and elevating two long-time proponents of a larger American role in preventing humanitarian crises and protecting human rights.
McClatchy Newspapers, Food-stamp cuts split Democrats: Billions of dollars in funding cuts for food stamps, contained in bills moving through Congress, have split Democratic lawmakers and angered advocates for the poor, who criticize the cuts as heartless attempts to reduce the federal budget deficit.
Politico, Raul Labrador exiting House immigration group: Rep. Raul Labrador, R-Idaho — a key conservative who had been engaged in secret negotiations over immigration reform — said Wednesday that he will drop out of the so-called House Gang of Eight. The problem, Labrador said, was an impasse over how the pending legislation would address the issue of health care for undocumented immigrants.
BuzzFeed, Top IRS official for Obamacare implementation placed on administrative leave: Sources say a key official in charge of overseeing health reform implementation, as well as another staffer, have been put on leave for accepting gifts.
National Journal, Terry McAuliffe tests Obama playbook in Virginia: Terry McAuliffe has been trying to build an Obama-style, technologically savvy, grassroots campaign to crank out voters who helped the president carry the state twice but don’t normally vote in gubernatorial elections. The November vote will be the first statewide election since the 2012 vote to test whether the Obama campaign model can be applied to candidates other than the president.

Lefty PLaybook
Ruy Teixeira on why the Democrats still need working-class white voters.
Kevin Drum flags a report showing that the IRS approved tax-exempt status for twice as many conservative groups as liberal groups.
Think Progress is promoting a new study purporting to show that same-sex families have higher rates of family cohesion than straight families.

Righty Playbook
James Pethokoukis on why coding is the blue-collar job of the 21st century.
Mark Krikorian asks why Marco Rubio wants to import more guest workers at a time when fewer Americans have jobs now than in 2007.
Daniel Horowitz warns Republicans not to fall for the Rubio-Cornyn amnesty Rope-a-Dope.

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