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NSA Veterans and Whistleblowers Respond to Obama Speech

Recording of audio stream from press event available here

Minutes after Photo credit: Noel St. JohnPresident Obama’s major address on NSA surveillance on Friday, Jan. 17, the Institute for Public Accuracy held a news conference with noted NSA veterans and whistleblowers.

Bill Binney (right) is former technical director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group and co-founder of the SIGINT [Signals intelligence] Automation Research Center.

Russ Tice (standing) is former National Security Agency analyst and a source for the New York Times’ pieces published in 2005 about NSA surveillance.

J. Kirk Wiebe (seated next to Binney) is former senior analyst with the NSA’s SIGINT Automation Research Center. (Wiebe and Binney were featured on an IPA news release “Obama NSA Speech: Intelligence Whistleblowers Available for Interviews.”) Sam Husseini (left), IPA’s communications director, moderated the event.

Audio by Chris Belcher. Photo Credit for Tice photo: Noel St. John

The War on Poverty at Fifty

by Alice O’Connor

Fifty years after Lyndon B. Johnson made it the centerpiece of his first State of the Union address on January 8, 1964, the War on Poverty remains one of the most embattled—and least understood—of Great Society initiatives. It’s an anniversary worth celebrating, despite historical memory distorted by decades of partisan attack, both for the commitments and priorities it reflected, and for the insights it offers into the political challenges of fighting inequality today.

The War on Poverty was still very much in the planning stages when LBJ made his historic pledge, though its broadest outlines were sketched out in the speech and in the 1964 Council of Economic Advisers Report: a fast-growing, full employment economy; an all-out “assault” on discrimination; investments in education, job training, and health care; and locally organized programs of community action, planned with what would only later be added as a legislative mandate for “maximum feasible participation” of the poor. Opportunity was the initiative’s keyword, enshrined in the enabling legislation, and the newly-created agency, the Office of Economic Opportunity, that became its administrative home.

[Read more...]

Edward Snowden: Profile in Courage

Edward Snowden may go down in history as one of this nation’s most important whistleblowers. He is certainly one of the bravest. The 29-year-old former technical assistant to the CIA and employee of a defense intelligence contractor has admitted to disclosing top secret documents about the National Security Agency’s massive violation of the privacy of law-abiding citizens.

Like Daniel Ellsberg, who disclosed the Pentagon Papers, Snowden is a man of principle. “The government has granted itself power it is not entitled to,” he told interviewers. “There is no public oversight. The result is that [NSA employees] have the latitude to go further than they are allowed to.” For example, he said, he could have accessed anyone’s e-mail, including the president’s.

This is not the first time that the American people have learned that their intelligence agencies are out of control. I revealed the military’s surveillance of the civil rights and anti-war movements in 1970. Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein of the Washigton Post disclosed the Watergate burglary by White House operatives, which led Congress to created two select committees to investigate the entire intelligence community. [Read more...]

Obama’s Economic Race Legacy

One has to believe in something or someone in order to betray it or them.

From the start, President Barack Obama has shown little interest or loyalty in the issues that affect the poor, working class and people of color in the United States. For almost his entire first term he didn’t utter the words poor or poverty. Early on he reminded African Americans: ‘I’m not the president of black America. I’m the president of the United States of America…’

So it’s not so surprising that Obama hasn’t done much of substance or impact to ease, let alone end, the depression in the black community. He’s been on the side of the banks and Wall Street since co-signing George Bush’s and Hank Paulsen’s TARP ‘too big to fail’ bank bailout at the expense of underwater homeowners and middle-class taxpayers. [Read more...]

Video from Cairo

Phone lines are intermittent and Twitter has reportedly been blocked in Egypt. Here is a live video feed: ustream.tv/channel/cairodowntown [update: ustream has been blocked, streaming now intermittently at livestream.com/cairowitness -- further update, now at: www.justin.tv/cairowitness]

Here is a YouTube video from earlier today: