Tag Archives: email

GOP’s closing argument: ‘If Clinton wins, we’ll do nothing but hound her’

Republican lawmakers are trying to delegitimize a Hillary Clinton presidency before it’s clear there will be one. They’re threatening to block her Supreme Court nominees, investigate her endlessly, and even impeach her.

The effect that all this would have on the nation seems to be of no concern to Republican Party officials. Their focus is strictly on partisanship and revenge, not the greater good. Their rhetoric is all-the-more striking because newly elected presidents traditionally enjoy a honeymoon period with Congress and the public. For Clinton, the honeymoon is over even before it’s clear she’ll be elected.

It’s come to this: The best argument Republicans can make for Donald Trump is that if Clinton is elected, they’ll do nothing but persecute her — public business be damned!

Charging Clinton with “high crime or misdemeanor” is how Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin described the GOP’s agenda in a Clinton presidency to the Beloit Daily News. Forget creating jobs, addressing gun violence, the growing threat of global terrorism. The Republicans’ goal is is to take out Clinton — quite literally according to Trump, who’s virtually called for her assassination in a couple of stump speeches.

GOP Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas, in Fox News interview, gleefully predicted that Clinton’s use of a private email server as Secretary of State would lead to her impeachment. He was all but salivating on camera at the prospect.

GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Richard Burr of North Carolina and John McCain of Arizona have suggested that they’ll oppose any and all Supreme Court nominations Clinton might make. It apparently hasn’t occurred to them that they’re threatening to shirk their constitutional duties. Shouldn’t that behavior be an impeachable offense? It’s certainly more destructive to our democracy than charges of mishandling email — charges that have been dismissed once already by the FBI.

“You’ve got some Republicans in Congress already suggesting they will impeach Hillary. She hasn’t even been elected yet!” an astonished President Obama told a crowd in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. “How does our democracy function like that?”

Well, it goes like this. In the House, Republicans have already spent more than two years and $7 million investigating Clinton’s role while secretary of state in the attack on the U.S. facility in Benghazi, Libya, in 2012. Never mind that Clinton’s prosecutors are the same budget hawks who believe government overreach and wasteful spending are the deadliest of sins — and never mind that they belong to the party that, based on phony evidence, created the most perilous global crisis since the Civil War.

None of Clinton’s obsessed GOP opponents seem concerned about the inevitable and potentially far more serious investigations certain to be leveled at Donald Trump following the election. Trump’s potential “high crimes and misdemeanors” are also getting a publicity pass from the FBI, even though, unlike allegations against Clinton,  “many of Trump’s are fully documented in court cases and legal proceedings,” as The Atlantic pointed out.

Trump faces a civil trial for fraud and racketeering under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act over his disgraced “Trump University.” He faces child rape charges in this month. A dozen women have charged him with sexual assault.

Trump’s ascendancy to the White House could potentially open — or reopen — thousands of cases deriving from his shady business dealings: stiffing of contractors and investors, avoiding taxes, hiring illegal immigrants, skirting trade laws, misusing his so-called shell of a “charity,” and so on.

Clinton’s transgressions, if true, as pretty par for the course for someone who’s spent decades in public life and political office. Trump’s, on the other hand, are off the charts for anyone considering a run for even a minor political office.

Yet GOP lawmakers, who are likely to retain their majority in the House, show no sign that they see the glaring imbalance. Some pundits have suggested that their end goal is to get veep candidate Mike Pence in the White House, where he can culminate their efforts to take abortion rights away from American women, reignite pogroms against LGBT Americans and, most especially, ensure that the corporate lords of GOP campaign coffers can continue to advance their grip over society.

Sadly, the threats against Clinton by right-wing congressional leaders are nothing new. For eight years they’ve struggled to delegitimize President Barack Obama’s presidency and to block nearly every effort he’s introduced to help working Americans. If Clinton is elected, the nature of their work in Washington will not change one iota; it will merely be redirected from a black man to a woman. When they say that a Clinton presidency will be a continuation of the Obama administration, they know what they’re talking about, because they’re the very people who will ensure that it is.

Perhaps all this is why the GOP’s top congressional leaders, Sen. Mitch McConnell of Kentucky and House Speaker Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, have passed up opportunities to dispute some of the outlandish anti-Clinton comments from their rank-and-file.  Instead, they’ve co-opted those crazy charges to help make their closing argument on why to vote for Trump, which is essentially this: “If Clinton wins, we’re going to waste the next four to eight years trying to find her guilty of something.”

Not only is that the most cynical, negative and irresponsible idea underpinning a campaign in American history, but, given Trump’s cartloads of legal baggage, it’s also among the most disingenuous.

 

Yahoo built secret software to scan customer emails for U.S. intelligence

Yahoo Inc. last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials.

The company complied with a classified U.S. government directive, scanning hundreds of millions of Yahoo Mail accounts at the behest of the National Security Agency or FBI, said two former employees and a third person apprised of the events.

Some surveillance experts said this represents the first case to surface of a U.S. Internet company agreeing to a spy agency’s demand by searching all arriving messages, as opposed to examining stored messages or scanning a small number of accounts in real time.

It is not known what information intelligence officials were looking for, only that they wanted Yahoo to search for a set of characters. That could mean a phrase in an email or an attachment, said the sources, who did not want to be identified.

Reuters was unable to determine what data Yahoo may have handed over, if any, and if intelligence officials had approached other email providers besides Yahoo with this kind of request.

According to the two former employees, Yahoo Chief Executive Marissa Mayer’s decision to obey the directive roiled some senior executives and led to the June 2015 departure of Chief Information Security Officer Alex Stamos, who now holds the top security job at Facebook Inc.

“Yahoo is a law abiding company, and complies with the laws of the United States,” the company said in a brief statement in response to Reuters questions about the demand.

Yahoo declined any further comment.

Through a Facebook spokesman, Stamos declined a request for an interview.

The NSA referred questions to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which declined to comment.

The demand to search Yahoo Mail accounts came in the form of a classified directive sent to the company’s legal team, according to the three people familiar with the matter.

U.S. phone and Internet companies are known to have handed over bulk customer data to intelligence agencies. But some former government officials and private surveillance experts said they had not previously seen either such a broad directive for real-time Web collection or one that required the creation of a new computer program.

“I’ve never seen that, a wiretap in real time on a ‘selector,'” said Albert Gidari, a lawyer who represented phone and Internet companies on surveillance issues for 20 years before moving to Stanford University this year. A selector refers to a type of search term used to zero in on specific information.

“It would be really difficult for a provider to do that,” he added.

Experts said it was likely that the NSA or FBI had approached other Internet companies with the same demand, since they evidently did not know what email accounts were being used by the target.

The NSA usually makes requests for domestic surveillance through the FBI, so it is hard to know which agency is seeking the information.

Reuters was unable to confirm whether the 2015 demand went to other companies, or if any complied.

Alphabet Inc’s Google and Microsoft Corp, two major U.S. email service providers, did not respond to requests for comment.

CHALLENGING THE NSA

Under laws including the 2008 amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, intelligence agencies can ask U.S. phone and Internet companies to provide customer data to aid foreign intelligence-gathering efforts for a variety of reasons, including prevention of terrorist attacks.

Disclosures by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and others have exposed the extent of electronic surveillance and led U.S. authorities to modestly scale back some of the programs, in part to protect privacy rights.

Companies including Yahoo have challenged some classified surveillance before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, a secret tribunal.

Some FISA experts said Yahoo could have tried to fight last year’s directive on at least two grounds: the breadth of the demand and the necessity of writing a special program to search all customers’ emails in transit.

Apple Inc made a similar argument earlier this year when it refused to create a special program to break into an encrypted iPhone used in the 2015 San Bernardino massacre. The FBI dropped the case after it unlocked the phone with the help of a third party, so no precedent was set.

Other FISA experts defended Yahoo’s decision to comply, saying nothing prohibited the surveillance court from ordering a search for a specific term instead of a specific account. So-called “upstream” bulk collection from phone carriers based on content was found to be legal, they said, and the same logic could apply to Web companies’ mail.

As tech companies become better at encrypting data, they are likely to face more such requests from spy agencies.

Former NSA General Counsel Stewart Baker said email providers “have the power to encrypt it all, and with that comes added responsibility to do some of the work that had been done by the intelligence agencies.”

SECRET SIPHONING PROGRAM

Mayer and other executives ultimately decided to comply with the directive last year rather than fight it, in part because they thought they would lose, said the people familiar with the matter.

Yahoo in 2007 had fought a FISA demand that it conduct searches on specific email accounts without a court-approved warrant. Details of the case remain sealed, but a partially redacted published opinion showed Yahoo’s challenge was unsuccessful.

Some Yahoo employees were upset about the decision not to contest the more recent directive and thought the company could have prevailed, the sources said.

They were also upset that Mayer and Yahoo General Counsel Ron Bell did not involve the company’s security team in the process, instead asking Yahoo’s email engineers to write a program to siphon off messages containing the character string the spies sought and store them for remote retrieval, according to the sources.

The sources said the program was discovered by Yahoo’s security team in May 2015, within weeks of its installation. The security team initially thought hackers had broken in.

When Stamos found out that Mayer had authorized the program, he resigned as chief information security officer and told his subordinates that he had been left out of a decision that hurt users’ security, the sources said. Due to a programming flaw, he told them hackers could have accessed the stored emails.

Stamos’s announcement in June 2015 that he had joined Facebook did not mention any problems with Yahoo. (http://bit.ly/2dL003k)

In a separate incident, Yahoo last month said “state-sponsored” hackers had gained access to 500 million customer accounts in 2014. The revelations have brought new scrutiny to Yahoo’s security practices as the company tries to complete a deal to sell its core business to Verizon Communications Inc for $4.8 billion.

A man walks past a Yahoo logo during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain in this February 24, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Albert Gea/File Photo
A man walks past a Yahoo logo during the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, Spain in this February 24, 2016 file photo. REUTERS/Albert Gea/File Photo

Walker releases 82 pages of records following court order

Gov. Scott Walker released 82 pages of records he wanted to keep secret after a judge ordered them to be made public Friday.

The records were related to Walker’s proposal in 2015 to change the University of Wisconsin System’s mission statement known as the “Wisconsin Idea.” He released the emails and attachments just before 5 p.m. Friday at the beginning of a three-day Memorial Day holiday weekend.

The Center for Media and Democracy filed a lawsuit a year ago against Walker, saying he was illegally withholding records related to the creation of the proposal to refocus the “Wisconsin Idea” on career readiness instead of public service and seeking a broader truth. He later backed down from the proposal after a public backlash, saying it was a mistake.

Dane County Circuit Judge Amy Smith, in ruling against Walker on Friday, rejected the Republican’s argument that he could withhold the records because they were part of a “deliberative process.” Smith said no such ruling exists in Wisconsin state law.

Before the judge’s ruling, Walker wrote a tweet poking fun at Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton over questions related to her official emails when she was secretary of state.

“I have turned over all my emails. I have been incredibly open about doing that,” Walker said, in an apparent reference to email disclosures he made related to a pair of investigations into his time as Milwaukee County executive and his recall election campaign.

Smith ruled Friday that Walker wrongly withheld 12 email exchanges and six attachments, but that three attachments were properly withheld. But for the majority of the material, Smith said that Walker’s concerns over releasing the records did not outweigh the public’s interest in disclosure.

“Wisconsin Open Records Law has long-held that the public interest in disclosure — the right of the people of Wisconsin to know what their government is doing — is a strong presumption for every record,” Smith wrote.

Brendan Fischer, attorney for the group that sued, praised the ruling for striking down Walker’s attempt to create a “deliberative process” exemption to the open records law.

The emails reveal conversations among Walker’s staff, bill drafters and others in his administration working on the budget mostly in late 2014 and early 2015. One document, which includes comments from unnamed UW officials to a draft of the governor’s proposal, shows that they suggested to Walker’s administration that the mission statement not be changed.

“The Legislature has been credited with crafting careful and wonderfully descriptive language to create the System,” the UW comments said. “The language is frequently quoted. If the purpose of the System is largely unchanged, this language should remain unchanged as well.”

But in a column labeled “SBO Decision,” referring to Walker’s budget office, the request from UW is marked as denied.

“The Gov requested a simplified and clearer mission and purpose statements,” the document said. “The Board of Regents is free to adopt any additional statements of mission or purpose.”

Walker last year said it was a “mistake someone made” and a “matter of confusion” to assume that his desire to add career readiness to the mission statement meant to also drop references to public service and seeking a broader truth.

The prospect of dropping the “Wisconsin Idea,” a cherished part of the university’s history, sparked an immediate and intense backlash when the Center for Media and Democracy first spotted it in the budget.

Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sbauerAP and find more of his work at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/scott-bauer.

 

Reagan Foundation: Walker telling of Bible story is correct

An official at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Library this week sought to clarify her account of how Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker came to handle a family Bible the late president used when taking the oath of office.

Library registrar Jennifer Torres said a “simple misunderstanding” left the wrong impression that Walker personally sought to hold the book. A spokeswoman for the Reagan Foundation says Walker’s retelling of the moment is correct.

Walker told the story of having his picture taken with the Bible at a 2013 Reagan Day dinner in Milwaukee. He described in his speech how he was surprised to see the Bible had been taken out of its exhibit case, so that he could pose with it for a photo.

In a series of emails with the liberal magazine The Progressive, Torres said that Walker had asked to see the Bible.

On March 16, Torres said that Walker’s advance team had indeed asked about Walker viewing the Bible, but that his surprise at being offered the chance to hold it was genuine.

“It was the Reagan Foundation’s request to actually pull the Bible from the case and allow Gov. Walker to hold the Bible,” Torres said. “It was not Gov. Walker nor his team’s idea to request that we remove it from the case or take a picture of the governor with it.”

In his 2013 speech, Walker also said he was told that former first lady Nancy Reagan wanted him to hold the book and pose for a photo.

Melissa Giller, a spokeswoman for the Reagan Foundation, said Walker likely got that idea because Nancy Reagan’s chief of staff had to give permission for the Bible to be removed.

“She knew Mrs. Reagan would also like the idea and we shared that with him,” Giller said in an email. “We aren’t sure how the other story got out (that it was his idea), and we feel badly about it because nothing about it was his idea.”

Torres, in an email she sent to Giller explaining what happened, called it a “simple misunderstanding.” Giller said that she, not anyone associated with Walker, sought out the additional information from Torres about what happened.

Kirsten Kukowski, a spokeswoman for Walker’s political group, Our American Revival, said in a statement late last week that, “Gov. Walker was honored to speak at the Reagan Library and to hold his mother’s Bible. He was and continues to be one of his heroes, a president for the ages that accomplished great things for our country.” She said on March 16 that Walker’s group had no additional comment.

Net neutrality: A look at the debate, the possibilities

Whose Internet is it anyway?

Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, says he’s keeping that question in mind as he pitches the biggest regulatory shake-up to the telecommunications industry since 1996, when people still used noisy modems and referred to the “information superhighway” as a fun way to buy books or check the weather.

Wheeler has not publicly released his plan yet, and might not for a few weeks. But he has suggested that Internet service has become as critical to people in the United States as water, electricity or phone service and should be regulated like any other public utility.

Wheeler told reporters this past week that he wants “yardsticks in place to determine what is in the best interest of consumers as opposed to what is in the best interest of the gatekeepers.”

That has the industry sounding the alarms, warning consumers of an inevitable $72 annual tax increase on each U.S. wireless account. But advocates of the approach say that is not likely to happen and that your Internet experience probably will carry on as usual.

A look at what “net neutrality” means and what is likely to happen:

THE ISSUE

Net neutrality is the idea that Internet providers should not move some content faster than others or enter into paid agreements with companies such as Netflix to prioritize their data.

Broadband providers have questioned the fairness of this approach. They have invested heavily in a sophisticated infrastructure and question whether the government should be telling them how to run their networks and package services.

But what if the major cable companies that provide much of the nation’s broadband had free rein to load some files faster than others? It is easy to imagine scenarios where these providers might favor content produced by their affiliates or start charging “tolls” to move data. Consumers naturally would gravitate toward faster sites and services that pay those fees, while smaller startups or nonprofits get shut out.

THE OPTIONS

The FCC had used the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which was intended to encourage competition in the telephone and cable industry, to enforce “open Internet” rules, until recently, when a federal appeals court knocked down that approach.

President Barack Obama and consumer advocates say a better tack would be to apply Title II of the 1934 Communications Act. That law, written with radio, telegraph and phone service in mind, prohibits companies from charging unreasonable rates or threatening access to services that are critical to society.

Industry likens that approach to cracking a nut with a sledgehammer.

THE FCC

Wheeler says he will circulate his proposal among the other FCC commissioners before Thursday. He has suggested it probably will apply Title II regulation to all Internet service, including wireless, but with some caveats.

Industry experts expect that Wheeler will say many rules should not apply to broadband, invoking what’s called “forbearance.”

The commissioners will vote Feb. 26. Wheeler is expected to have the support of the other two Democratic commissioners. The two Republican commissioners have made clear that they do not support applying Title II.

Next stop will be the courts. Industry lobbyists and FCC officials say there’s no doubt one of the big providers will sue and probably ask the court to suspend enforcement of the new regulation pending appeal. It’s possible the issue won’t be resolved for several more years, even well into the next president’s first term.

CONGRESS

Lawmakers could try to resolve the uncertainty, but Congress rarely is that pragmatic. Lawmakers tend to take on issues that fire up their base or bring their states money, and an in-the-weeds compromise on telecommunications law would be a lot of work with little immediate payoff.

So far, Republicans have pitched an idea that would enforce basic open Internet rules but could strip the FCC of its ability to help local municipalities build their own broadband. It’s a nonstarter for Obama and congressional Democrats who say poor and rural areas have been left behind in the deployment of high-speed Internet.

Assuming Wheeler’s proposal satisfies consumer advocacy groups, Democrats would have little incentive to revisit the issue. While Republicans have the votes to push though their own anti-regulation legislation without Democratic support, Obama would veto it.

CONSUMERS

Most Internet providers, except Sprint, have warned the legal uncertainty will chill future investments. FCC officials point to a recent wireless spectrum auction that has attracted some $44 billion as proof that the telecommunications industry is thriving even amid the current uncertainty.

As for taxes, the Progressive Policy Institute estimated that treating the Internet like phone service would trigger taxes and fees up to $15 billion a year, including $67 for each wired service and $72 for wireless in state and local taxes.

But that report, widely quoted by industry lobbyists, did not take into account the Internet Tax Freedom Act, which prohibits state and local governments from imposing new taxes on Internet access, or the FCC’s ability to shield consumers against some state and local taxes by claiming the Internet is an “interstate” service.

WIGWIRED: Out and Active

Extreme Selfie. The prestigious Tillywig Award for “best toy” has gone to Lexibook’s Wi-Fi Move Cam, a sports camera made for action and adventure — pedaling down a mountain bike trail, hiking around the bend, snorkeling on the lake’s bottom and swimming out to the float.

Seek & find. Pricey boats are equipped with pricey fish finders and depth plotters. For anglers just paddling away from shore in a kayak, or even standing on shore or a pier, Deeper’s Smart Fishfinder is a more moderately priced alternative at $250. The fishfinder is cast using a rod and reel to send an image of what lies beneath the water to a companion app. Be sure to double-check the clasp before casting.

Spot on. For those heading into remote or rural areas and not expecting reliable cell signals, the Spot satellite messenger can be used to let social media friends know when you’ve reached the summit of the mountain or the bottom of the canyon but, more importantly, transmit an SOS when an emergency strikes.

Pocket trainer. Train for more than a game with the free Mountain Athletics app, which contains an instant goal tracker, training for endurance and strength, a timer and rep counter and athlete tips.

On break. Take the phone but turn off email. A recent survey found that work email is encroaching into the personal lives and downtime of many laborers. About 44.8 percent of those surveyed for the poll say they check work email at least once a day in their personal time.About 63.6 percent of those surveyed admit to checking work email while on holiday, and:

• 6.7% have gone through work email during a child’s school event.

• 5% have checked work email during a wedding ceremony.

• 3.8% have checked work mail during a funeral.

• 3.8% owned up to checking their work email while their spouse was in labor.

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Outrage in Illinois over GOP official calling a biracial Congressional candidate a ‘street walker’

An Illinois Republican official resigned from his leadership post on June 20 amid outrage over an email in which he berated a biracial former Miss America as a “street walker” who could fill a law firm’s “minority quota” if she loses her bid for Congress.

The controversy, involving a county GOP leader in central Illinois who campaigned for U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis, created a new rift for Republicans already struggling to expand and attract women and minority voters.

Davis demanded the resignation of the county official, Jim Allen, after learning of what he called a “wrong, appalling and incredibly demeaning” email targeting Erika Harold, Davis’ opponent in the March 2014 Republican primary.

Sent to Republican blogger Doug Ibendahl, the email referred to Harold as a “street walker” and “love child” of Democrats and suggested the Harvard graduate could fill a “minority quota” at a law firm should she lose the race.

Ibendahl, also a former party official, posted the email on June 19 on his website.

“I hope some of these bullies learn a lesson from this,” he told the Associated Press on June 20. “Our party has a huge branding problem nationwide, especially in Illinois. This guy’s attitude sets us back. It’s confirmation as to why women and minorities don’t take the Republican party seriously.”

Allen apologized for his message in a brief statement to the (Champaign, Ill.) News-Gazette and resigned from his post.

Harold released a statement, saying Allen’s comments have “no place within public discourse.”

Champaign County GOP Chairman Habeeb Habeeb -who is staying impartial in the 13th District GOP primary – was so offended by the comments he left a message for Harold and personally apologized to her father.

“I don’t see that kind of vitriol in everyday Republican circles,” Habeeb said. “The party has changed and these things just set us backward.”

The incident highlights the rocky path the national party has forged in recent months, with comments such as Allen’s derailing efforts by the GOP to become more of a “big tent” organization.

After performing poorly at the polls in November, Republican National Committee Chair Reince Priebus released a “prescription” for the party’s future. Along with changing its tone on social issues to win over younger and minority voters, the party would need to make a concerted effort to elevate more women, Priebus said.

Along with state party officials, Priebus joined in the chorus calling for Allen’s resignation, via Twitter.

“Chairman Allen’s astonishingly offensive views have no place in politics. He should apologize and resign immediately,” Preibus wrote.

Harold seeks to be catalyst for change in the GOP. When she announced her bid earlier this month, Harold said she believes she can help expand the party’s voting base and reach people who don’t traditionally vote Republican.

Former Illinois GOP Chairman Pat Brady, who stepped down last month after coming under fire from state central committeemen over his support of gay marriage, said comments like Allen’s are an unfortunate distraction.

Without a Republican governor in Illinois or a Republican president to act as the party’s “mouthpiece,” Brady said, these comments only get more traction. But they also create a sort of wag-the-dog situation, working to block the election of Republican to those roles.

Davis’ congressional district in in central Illinois has been targeted by the Democratic Congressional Committee as a pick-up seat in 2014.

Davis, a freshman, in November defeated emergency room doctor David Gill by approximately 1,000 votes. It was Gill’s fourth bid for Congress.

“We do need to welcome folks from all walks of life, regardless of where they come from what they look like and what their policy preference is,” said Davis said. “There are no excuses for his behavior. I am not making any. I sure hope it doesn’t affect my campaign.”

NSA debate pits far left, right against middle

Revelations of massive government collections of Americans’ phone and email records have reinvigorated an odd-couple political alliance of the far left and right.

A number of Democratic civil liberties activists, along with libertarian-leaning Republicans, say the government actions are too broad and don’t adequately protect citizens’ privacy.

But this unlikely coalition might have trouble doing anything more than spicing up the national debate. Solid majorities of Americans and their elected representatives appear to support the chief elements of the government’s secret data-gathering, and even some of Congress’ most outspoken, pro-limited-government tea partyers are wading cautiously into the discussions.

Among other things, the latest privacy-vs.-security struggle may test libertarianism’s clout within the Republican Party. In political circles, it’s a favorite topic since the tea party emerged, built largely on antipathy toward President Barack Obama’s major health care expansion.

“This is a marginal national security group within our party,” Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said of those who call the government snooping unwarranted or unconstitutional. “I just don’t see how anybody gets elected as a Republican” by running to the “left of Obama on national security,” said Graham, one of the Senate’s most hawkish members.

Leading the libertarian charge is Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., who has clashed with Graham on other issues, including the use of unmanned aircraft to kill terrorism suspects.

Paul told “Fox News Sunday” he would ask “all the Internet providers and all of the phone companies” and their customers to join a class-action lawsuit against surveillance techniques that he called “an extraordinary invasion of privacy.”

“Get a warrant and go after a terrorist, or a murderer or a rapist,” Paul said. “But don’t troll through a billion phone records every day. That is unconstitutional.”

Paul is weighing a possible presidential bid. His father, former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, drew a loyal libertarian following in his unsuccessful presidential campaigns.

The furor over security and privacy came with the disclosure – in unauthorized leaks to news organizations – of two far-reaching programs run by the National Security Agency. One gathers hundreds of millions of U.S. phone records to – the administration says – search for possible links to known terrorist targets abroad. The other allows the government to tap into nine U.S. Internet companies and gather all communications to detect suspicious behavior that begins overseas.

A handful of congressional liberals have raised complaints similar to Paul’s.

“I want our law enforcement people to be vigorous in going after terrorists,” Sen. Bernie Sanders, a Vermont independent who has long called himself a socialist, told MSNBC. “But I happen to believe they can do that without disregarding the Constitution.”

The Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, and it guards against unreasonable searches and seizures. The American Civil Liberties Union – often a target of conservatives’ derision – has filed a lawsuit saying the NSA programs violate those provisions.

Congressional leaders of both parties are mostly defending the surveillance programs. House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, was especially outspoken Tuesday on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“I’ve been briefed on all of these programs,” Boehner said. “There are clear safeguards,” he said. “There’s no American who’s going to be snooped on, in any way, unless they’re in contact with some terrorists somewhere around the world.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said last week, “Everyone should just calm down and understand that this isn’t anything that is brand new. It’s been going on for some seven years.” Reid said Congress will “try to make it better.”

It’s not unprecedented for liberal Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans to join forces on issues that essentially bend the left-right spectrum into a circle. Such activists, for example, generally support gay marriage and, in some cases, marijuana legalization.

Those out-in-the-open issues, however, differ from the covert NSA surveillance matter. Public support for gay rights has grown dramatically, and drug legalization is a comparatively low-profile issue.

America was founded by people who railed against a British government they considered oppressive. But Americans also want the federal government to protect them, a task that grew more daunting after the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and the Pentagon.

Some tea party-backed senators, who have joined Paul in other causes, are moving cautiously on the NSA matter.

“What we have seen so far is troubling,” but “at this point we don’t have a clear picture of what their policy is,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, told reporters Tuesday.

Cruz sought to link the NSA matter to other scandals where Obama’s critics feel on safer ground. That includes the Internal Revenue Service’s scrutiny of tea party-related groups seeking tax-exempt status.

“Given the pattern of misconduct we have seen with the IRS, given the pattern we have seen throughout the administration,” Cruz said, “their past actions do not engender trust.”

Even as some critics say anti-terrorism programs go too far in scooping up electronic records, others say they’ve done too little to thwart terrorist attacks. They cite the April 15 Boston Marathon bombings and the 2009 fatal shooting of 13 people at Fort Hood, Texas.

Cruz said both criticisms are warranted.

In the Boston and Fort Hood, cases, he said, “the administration was well aware of the terrorists long before the act of terrorism was committed,” yet, “for whatever reason, dropped the ball and didn’t act to prevent actual terrorists who took the lives of innocents.” Cruz said the government may have been “focusing more energy on casting the net wide and invading the privacy of law-abiding Americans rather than targeting the bad guys.”

A CBS News poll conducted June 9-10 showed that while most approve of government collection of phone records of Americans suspected of terrorist activity and Internet activities of foreigners, a majority disapproved of federal agencies collecting the phone records of ordinary Americans. Thirty percent agreed with the government’s assessment that the revelation of the programs would hurt the U.S.’ ability to prevent future terrorist attacks, while 57 percent said it would have no impact.

New Hampshire lawmaker calls women ‘vaginas’ in email

New Hampshire state Rep. Peter Hansen referred to women as “vaginas” in an email to legislative colleagues during a debate over repealing a law allowing people to use deadly force to defend themselves.

Hansen, of Amherst, N.H., sent an email on April 1, that referred to a speech by another lawmaker, who described how he had retreated from an incident without the use of deadly force in public.

Hansen, according to an AP story that referred to post from liberal blogger Susan Bruce, wrote, “There were two critical ingredients missing in the illustrious stories purporting to demonstrate the practical side of retreat. Not that retreat may not be possible mind you. What could possibly be missing from those factual tales of successful retreat in VT, Germany, and the bowels of Amsterdam? Why children and vagina’s of course. While the tales relate the actions of a solitary male the outcome cannot relate to similar situations where children and women and mothers are the potential victims.”

Other lawmakers, NARAL-Pro Choice New Hampshire and state GOP chairwoman Jennifer Horn said the remark debased women.

“These comments are repugnant and unbecoming of an elected official,” House Republican Leader Gene Chandler of Bartlett said in a statement. “They have no place in public discourse. Rep. Hansen’s comments in no way reflect the opinions of House Republicans or the Republican Party. Rep. Hansen should apologize immediately.”

Hansen, 70, said that he didn’t regret the remark and that critics don’t understand the context.

“My point in the choice of words was two-fold: One was shock content and the other was to try to get into the mind of the perpetrator,” Hansen told The Telegraph of Nashua. “This is something that has been totally blown out of proportion.”

Romney administration blocked guide over ‘transgender,’ ‘bisexual’

Publication of a Massachusetts anti-bullying guide was blocked in 2006 by former Gov. Mitt Romney’s administration because it contained “bisexual” and “transgender.”

The Boston Globe carried the report that the Romney administration objected to those words in passages about protecting certain students from harassment. The report is based on state records and interviews with present and past state officials.

In 2006, Romney aides said that publication of the guide was delayed for further review.

However, an email recently obtained by the Boston Globe offers a different explanation. Written in May 2006 by a Massachusetts Department of Public Health official, the email reads, “Because this is using the terms ‘bisexual’ and ‘transgendered,’ DPH’s name may not be used in this publication.”

The Globe said because the DPH was the primary sponsor and funder of the guide, that the conflict over the words effectively blocked publication. The DPH official said at the time that she was consulting with Romney’s office on the issue.

The guide, “Guide to Bullying Prevention,” was not printed and distributed until after Romney left the governor’s office to prepare for his presidential run in 2008.

A number of people declined to comment for the Globe’s story. Romney’s presidential campaign referred the newspaper to Romney administration statements from 2006. That was the year that Romney threatened to shut down a state commission on gay youth program because it issued a press release with his name on it and vetoed spending $158,000 for counseling LGBT victims of violence.

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