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Jonathan Turley

No Water For You: Obama Administration Moves To Cut Off Water To Pot Growers In Washington and Oregon

Hemp Field

For months, the Obama Administration has been dealing with the growing revolt among the states over federal marijuana laws. Twenty states and the District of Columbia legalized medical marijuana use over the opposition of the federal government and medical use. Two states, Colorado and Washington, have legalized the sale and possession of marijuana. It is a classic conflict between states and the federal government under federalism. Some of us view the states as asserting a classic police power in an area that was left to the states under our federalism principles. 

Now the Obama Administration has said that it will withhold water from state-licensed pot growers in Washington state and Colorado. The decision by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is particularly problematic given the fact that the federal government has stepped in to take effective control of the water resources in these states and now appears to be using that control to try to coerce states to change their laws to satisfy the federal government.

Dan DuBray, the agency’s chief of public affairs, insists that “[a] a federal agency, Reclamation is obligated to adhere to federal law in the conduct of its responsibilities to the American people.” However, that position is inconsistent with the actions of the Obama Administration in other years. I recently testified (here and here and here) and wrote a column on President Obama’s increasing circumvention of Congress in negating or suspending U.S. laws.


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Obama Administration Quietly Strips Senate Bill Of Provision Requiring Disclosure Of Annual Drone Kills

Death From Above

There is yet another victory for the national security state under President Obama. The Obama Administration has succeeded, with the help of Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein, in quietly removing a provision that would seem unobjectionable to a President who pledged “the most transparent Administration in history.”

The provision simply required disclosure of the number of people killed each year by U.S. drone attacks. Not the details mind you. Just the figure. That sent the intelligence community into outrage over having to tell the public how many people have been killed in just this one area. The result was that it was simply stripped out of the Senate bill without a vote or debate.

The person demanding the change was James R. Clapper, the director of national intelligence. You recall Clapper’s last notable appearance before Congress was to lie about surveillance programs — an act viewed widely as perjury but Clapper has not been even investigated let alone prosecuted by the Obama Administration. Instead, he is now working to strip out provisions requiring the most basic form of disclosure. That must certainly be a comfort to an official who admitted to previously giving false information to Congress. If no disclosure is required, there could be no new charges of perjury.
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Congress Investigates “Slush Fund” At USAID Used To Get Lawmakers To Pass Reforms

Usaidmoney

Our government has long seemed to be descending into a type of Orwellian universe of double speak. The Libyan War was not a war but a “time-limited, scope-limited military action” under Obama. Torture of detainees was not torture but “enhanced interrogation” under Bush. Now it appears open bribery of foreign officials is not bribery but “incentives” to implement policies favorable to their own people.

Congressional members are moving to address what is being called a “slush fund” with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) where millions are paid to political figures in foreign countries. We have previously discussed such payments by the CIA to the openly corrupt Afghanistan government, including suitcases of cash to President Hamid Karzai. What is most interesting is that an act that is a federal crime for citizens doing business abroad can be not only legal but an official program by government officials. It appears that in the handshake shown on the USAID seal, there is often a sawbuck or two in the palm.

The USAID routinely makes “incentive” payments to lawmakers to pass legislation or enact policies through the world. Even policies that benefit their own people like granting rights to women or protecting the democratic process are secured by greasing the palms of corrupt officials. In doing so, the United States perpetuates the rampant corruption in these countries and enriches officials who will only act if it benefits them personally.
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Hayden: Feinstein Too 'Emotional' To Discuss The Torture Program

Michael Hayden

Former CIA and National Security Agency director Michael Hayden has long been the face and voice of the growing security state within the United States. While many of his representations have been challenged, he continues (like Dick Cheney) to create his own reality to justify powers viewed as authoritarian and unlawful. Now, with the approaching release of a comprehensive report on the torture program, Hayden is out in the press denying the findings of the report that torture did not result in any meaningful new intelligence and that the CIA tortured people who were already cooperating with conventional (and legal) interrogations. Hayden took to the airways to champion torture by attacking the chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D, Cal.) and said that she was just being “emotional” and should not be involved in such a serious debate.

On “Fox News Sunday,” Hayden cited comments Feinstein made last month that the report would “ensure that an un-American, brutal program of detention and interrogation will never again be considered or permitted.” That was just Feinstein being “emotional” Hayden insisted: “That sentence — that motivation for the report — may show deep, emotional feeling on the part of the senator, but I don’t think it leads you to an objective report.”
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Senate Report Exposes Torture and Misrepresentations By CIA Officials . . . But Recommends No Prosecution

Torture

We previously discussed how CIA officials were accused of trying to intimidate Senate staffers working on an investigation into allegations of torture and lies by the agency officials. Now the details of that still classified report have been leaked to the media. For the Senate Intelligence Committee (long accused of being a rubber stamp for intelligence agencies), the report is quite damning. The Senate found a pattern of misinformation knowingly released by the CIA to convince the public that its torture program yielded valuable intelligence — and new forms of torture that have never been previously confirmed. What is most striking however is what is not in the report: a recommendation for criminal prosecution. Indeed, consistent with its past approach to intelligence abuses, the Committee does not recommend any action be taken against a single CIA official.

The investigation reportedly details how the CIA knowingly and methodically misled the government and the public about intelligence derived from torture. This was part of a concerted effort by CIA officials and Bush officials to claim that the killing of Osama Bin Laden and other intelligence victories only occurred due to the use of torture. Indeed, the movie “Zero Dark Thirty” was a disturbing revisionist film that directly linked torture derived information with the killing of Bin Laden despite an absence of any support for such a claim. The very persons who could have been prosecuted for the torture program have given countless interviews assuring the public that the torture was beneficial. Putting aside the question of why benefits from a torture program would excuse the crime, this report further confirms that these claims were untrue.
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Breaking: Obama Declares NSA 'Reforms' While Dismissing Influence Of Snowden Leaks

Turleynsa

I just listened to the NSA speech by President Obama and as expected there is precious little in terms of real change. For civil libertarians, it is a nothing burger served hot and with a sympathetic smile. It is much of the same. Another review board composed of government officials. Another promise for the Executive Branch to review itself. I am in Salt Lake City today on the Sister Wives case, but I am struck by the absence of civil libertarians on the coverage by the networks. I will have to run to court but I was underwhelmed. It seemed like another attempt to reinvent privacy in a new surveillance friendly image.

As I tweeted earlier, it was rather unpersuasive to hear Obama say that he was always intended to force reforms and that Snowden was merely a coincidence. If you step back, you will note that the programs will continue and the intelligence community will retain its authority with little outside independent limits. The speech had the feel of a car salesman coming back from “speaking with the manager” and saying that he is able to offer a deal that no one likes but he wants to offer because he likes the customer. Of course, this “deal” does not require our consent.
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NSA Task Force Member Says Program Should Be Expanded Not Limited

Homeland Surveillance

Last week, I wrote about the dangers of tasks forces bearing gifts for civil libertarians and noted how Obama stacked the task force on NSA surveillance with hawks to guarantee the preservation of the program. One of those was former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell who served during the secret development and use of the program. Obviously, if he were to conclude that the program was illegal, it would have meant that he was part of the violations. Not only did the task force maintain the program was legal (in conflict with the recent ruling of a federal court), but now Morell has called not for the limitation of the program but its expansion. That is what President Obama considers a reformer in the national security field.

Morell gave an interview in the aftermath of the task force report that included a call for the expansion of the program to include emails. He also confirmed, as was stated in the earlier column, that the report actually did not include any substantial change for the program.

Morell stated “I would argue actually that the email data is probably more valuable than the telephony data. You can bet that the last thing a smart terrorist is going to do right now is call someone in the United States.” Well, yes, but the same discomfort is felt by citizens of the United States and others around the world. If you really want privacy, it appears that you had best use telepathy rather than telephony communications.
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Breaking: Federal Court Declares NSA Program Unconstitutional

NSA Seal

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon has handed down a blockbuster decision this afternoon finding that the massive National Security Agency surveillance program is unconstitutional – a view shared by many constitutional scholars including myself. The decision is not only a courageous defense of privacy but a reaffirmation of the integrity and independence of the courts.

While President Obama often insists that his authority for such surveillance is clear, the Justice Department has fought mightily (and until now successfully) to block all major challenges of the program from securing judicial review. The decision is also an embarrassment to the “reform” boards set up by the White House, including one that just released its findings on the NSA program (including the assurance that the NSA program is perfectly legal).

The Review Board conclusions were leaked by officials, which noted that the board found that the NSA is operating within the laws. This was the day before Leon issued his ruling saying that the NSA was flagrantly violating the Constitution. Many of us have questioned the hand picked boards, including a privacy board that has yet to issue its recommendations, in the wake of the Snowden scandal.
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Rep. Rogers To The French: You’re Welcome

Mike Rogers

Europeans are upset after learning that, in addition to capturing the email and phone records of Americans, the NSA has been doing the same to them in a global assault on privacy. This includes leaders of allied nations. The United States is now viewed as an international rogue nation with no respect for the law or privacy or even loyalty. Now into this explosive environment has jumped Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.), chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. Rogers responded directly to the French and said that this is all a “good thing” and the French really “applauding and popping champagne corks” for keeping them all under surveillance and destroying any notion of privacy.

Rogers truly personifies the new mentality of the surveillance state created under President Obama. While George Bush sought to expand sought surveillance, it was Obama who succeeded in getting Democrats and other politicians to embrace the new security state and a transparent society model. What is most striking is how members, particularly those supposed to be exercising oversight of these agencies, have become virtual spokespersons for the security state.
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