Boston Bombing News: Friends & Acquaintances

It was announced today that a sentencing hearing has been scheduled in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, now convicted on thirty charges in relation to the 2013 bombing of the Boston marathon and the events which followed. This hearing is to take place on Wednesday 24th June. The sentencing hearings in the cases of four of Tsarnaev’s former friends and acquaintances are also scheduled to take place during the upcoming month.

Dias Kadyrbayev: (Sentencing Tuesday 2nd June.)

Kadyrbayev, detained whilst awaiting trial since April 2013, faces charges in relation to obstructing the FBI’s investigation into the bombing of the Boston marathon. It is alleged that he made false statements to the FBI and also concealed evidence. He changed his plea to one of guilty in August 2014, having entered into a plea deal with the government in exchange for a lighter sentence, and notably, following the July 2013 conviction of Azamat Tazhayakov, a former friend of both Kadyrbayev and Tsarnaev, on almost identical charges.

Azamat Tazhayakov: (Sentencing Friday 5th June.)

Tazhayakov’s circumstances are much akin to those of his former friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, with the exception of having been convicted at trial in July 2013, on charges almost identical to those to which his former friend has now entered a guilty plea and which resulted from similar alleged actions. During his trial, Tazhayakov’s defense attempted to prove that it was Kadyrbayev, and not their client, who was responsible for removing a back pack containing, amongst other items, firework casings from which the explosive powder had been removed, from Tsarnaev’s dorm room.

Robel Phillipos: (Sentencing also Friday 5th June.)

Phillipos, a friend of Tsarnaev and acquaintance of both Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov has been held on “house arrest” since April 2013 and was convicted in October 2014 on two counts of lying to FBI investigators. His defense attorneys claimed that their client was high on marijuana during his initial contact with the FBI and also succeeded in discrediting the testimony of at least one FBI agent in court. Nevertheless, the jury in this case convicted Phillipos.

All three of these young men were in their late teens in the Spring of 2013. Dias Kadyrbayev and Azamat Tazhayakov became friends with Dzhokhar Tsarnaev during the time all three were college students at UMass Dartmouth. Robel Phillipos had known Tsarnaev since their school days. None are alleged to have had any knowledge of the bombings prior to the event.

Another thing that these three former friends have in common, in addition to knowing Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, is that all three expressed disbelief that their mutual friend could have been responsible for the bombings. With this borne in mind I would suggest that it is likely that all three sought to protect a friend they believed had been wrongfully accused and that the greatest “crime” they may be guilty of is perhaps exercising poor judgement in their encounters with the FBI? Should anyone believe otherwise I would ask: Is over 24 months incarceration not penalty enough, for a non-violent crime, given the circumstances of both youth and no prior criminal record?

Khairullozhon Matanov: (Sentencing Thursday 18th June.)

Matanov is an admitted acquaintance of both Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. It has been documented that when he recognized the Tsarnaev brothers as the suspects identified in surveillance footage released by the FBI he contacted the police and told law enforcement that he knew both suspects and volunteered contact information for both Tamerlan and Dzhokhar. Matanov was later interviewed by the FBI and was then kept under surveillance by the FBI for a period of over twelve months. During this time the FBI made contact with him on numerous occasions. He was arrested on 30th May 2013 and charged with obstructing the FBI’s investigation into the bombing of the marathon by way of destroying evidence.

In reality, Matanov’s only “crime” seems to have been in deleting files from his computer in order to minimize perception of the depth of his relationship with the Tsarnaev brothers. An understandable, even if unwise reaction, perhaps, in the event of someone with whom he was acquainted being identified as suspects in a serious crime? Again, as in the cases of Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and Phillipos, I would ask if Matanov is actually guilty of any “crime”, or is he simply guilty of poor judgement? He has now been held in solitary confinement for nearly eleven months.

On 24th March, Matanov changed his plea to guilty, despite having protested his innocence during the months prior. During this hearing, Judge Young was able to elicit statements from Matanov which indicated that his reason for changing his plea was not that he now believed himself to be guilty as charged, but rather that he believed that a jury at trial, in the city of Boston, would find him guilty regardless.

Matanov, in addition to Kadyrbayev, Tazhayakov and Phillipos, initially stated that he did not believe that the Tsarnaev brothers could have been responsible for the bombing.

Konstantin Morozov, Magomed Dolakov & Viskhan Vakhabov:

None of these three known acquaintances of Tamerlan Tsarnaev are facing criminal charges.

Morozov was detained on immigration charges some months ago and is now believed to be facing deportation. (If he has not already been deported.) It is said that his “immigration issues” arose after he declined the “opportunity” to become an informant for the FBI.

Dolakov, whose identity was until recently concealed, has now been identified as the “third man” who visited the gym with Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev in the days prior to the bombings. It was admitted in court during the Tsarnaev trial that neither Tsarnaev’s defense, who had planned to use Dolakov’s statements to the FBI, nor the prosecution, had any knowledge of this individual’s whereabouts at that time. As the FBI have kept such a close eye on so many of the Tsarnaev brothers’ associates, is this not at least a little curious?

Vakhabov refused to testify in the trial of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, (citing the Fifth), and was claimed by prosecution attorney William Weinreb to have made “inconsistent” statements to the FBI regarding his acknowledged contact with the elder Tsarnaev, three days after the bombings. If “inconsistent” statements to the FBI in the cases of others who were known to one or more of the Tsarnaev brothers led to criminal charges being filed, one might wonder why not so in this case?

More to ponder.

Late Night FDL: Heartbreaker/ Ring of Fire

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo – Heartbreaker/ Ring of Fire

As Rolling Stone wrote last week…

Pat Benatar and Neil Giraldo: ‘We’re Like Johnny and June’

On August 1st, 1981, Pat Benatar strutted her way onto MTV, the upstart video channel that would change the way a generation listened to music. The petite New York native with the gigantic voice tore through a cover of the Young Rascals’ “You Better Run,” sticking her index finger in the face of some imaginary foe, and pointing toward a future in which women would grab rock & roll by the wallet. Only the second-ever video played on MTV, it followed the Buggles’ synth-heavy “Video Killed the Radio Star” on the channel and helped turn the classically trained Benatar into a rock superstar with dozens of chart hits, a Number One album and a seemingly endless concert tour that continues to this day. By her side, playing guitar in the clip, was Neil Giraldo, who would secure his own place in history as the first-ever guitarist spotlighted on MTV. In addition to serving as her musical partner, Giraldo would also secure a place in Benatar’s heart — they married in 1982 and have two daughters. {…}

After a whirlwind media day in New York last week, Benatar and Giraldo landed in Nashville to play the Ryman Auditorium, the Mother Church of Country Music, a fitting venue for the couple as they feel a close kinship to one of country music’s most legendary couples. That’s one reason their set list includes an incendiary mash-up of Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” (co-written by the future Mrs. Cash, June Carter) and the couple’s own “Heartbreaker.” The result is one of their still-spectacular live show’s most thrilling and genuine moments…

What’s on your mind tonite…?

Team Clinton Worried Sanders Will Make Hillary ‘Look Like A Corporatist’

With the official entry of Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont into the 2016 presidential race comes an atypical challenger for Hillary Clinton. Unlike traditional presidential aspirants, Sanders opened his campaign by sharpening his rhetoric rather than trying to dull it down. While this may mean Clinton will not have to worry about being outflanked by Sanders for the so-called (and largely illusory) “center,” it certainly means that Clinton’s alignment with Wall Street and Corporate America is going to prove problematic in the Democratic primary given her record.

This is something, reportedly, that Team Clinton is well aware of. It would not be at all surprising that Hillary Clinton and her supporters fear a contest of ideas – the neoliberal ideology she and her husband are closely associated with is very unpopular both with the general public and most members of the Democratic Party in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis.

Hillary Clinton knows this all too well and has been trying to distance herself from her own recent past including her husband’s presidency. Unfortunately for her, the shift looks too opportunistic and does little to neutralize the clear contrasts a Senator Sanders candidacy draws.

Insiders familiar with the Clinton campaign’s thinking described it as “frightened” of Sanders — not that he would win the nomination, but that he could damage her with the activist base by challenging her on core progressive positions in debates and make her look like a centrist or corporatist. The source described the campaign as “pleased,” at least, that O’Malley and Sanders will split the anti-Clinton vote. A Clinton spokesman declined to comment.

At his kickoff rally in Burlington, Vermont, on Tuesday, where thousands turned out to support him, Sanders vowed to “break up the largest financial institutions in the country” and provided the kinds of specifics Clinton has yet to color in. Sanders called for raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. (Clinton has said she supports raising the minimum wage but has yet to say by how much.) Sanders also supports a single-payer health insurance system, expanding Social Security benefits, free tuition at public universities and universal pre-kindergarten.

Hillary Clinton is not only not illuminating her 2016 campaign platform, she is avoiding the press as best she can. Part of that is due to a few ongoing scandals concerning deleted emails and the corruption at the Clinton Foundation, but another aspect is surely due to worries over exactly what her positions should be. Crafting a poll-driven message is difficult in a country with such volatile politics, especially given that Clinton is going to be raising money from the very millionaires and billionaires her party’s base wants taxed and regulated.

Those donors, of course, will want something in return should Clinton become president. So maybe the real issue is not whether Sanders will make Hillary Clinton look like a corporatist, but whether she will govern like one if elected.

Federal Appeals Court Affirms Persons Threatening Suicide Have Right to Not Be ‘Shot on Sight’ By Police

dirksen

A federal appeals court affirmed that a person threatening to commit suicide has a constitutional right to not be “shot on sight” if that person is not putting anyone else in “imminent danger” or resisting arrest for a “serious crime.”

Jerome Weinmann threatened to kill himself in his garage on November 12, 2007. His wife, Susan, called 911 and told the dispatcher that McClone had “access to a long gun.” An officer from the Waupaca County Sheriff’s Department in Wisconsin was dispatched to respond to her call.

Only a few minutes after arriving at the home, Deputy Patrick McClone decided it was necessary to force his way into the garage. He could not see Jerome through the two windows he chose to use. Without using other windows and before attempting to talk to Jerome, he kicked in a door to the garage because he thought he heard noises that suggested Jerome was in the act of committing suicide.

McClone fired his weapon and shot Jerome four times in his face, thumb and torso. These injuries, according to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, “required extensive medical treatment including partial amputation of his thumb and a total replacement of his jaw’s left temporomandibular joint.”

Jerome had a .12 gauge shotgun in his lap but maintains that he never pointed it at the officer. McClone asserts the weapon was pointed at him and he was in danger, which gave him the right to shoot Jerome. He appealed a ruling by a federal district court that refused to dismiss an “excessive force” claim filed by Jerome against him.

In order to convince the court to dismiss the lawsuit, McClone had to show that the facts according to Jerome did not demonstrate that his rights were somehow violated.

McClone argued this was an “inherently dangerous encounter” because he had entered an “enclosed garage with a single entrance.” If the Seventh Circuit accepted this argument, the court claimed it would be “saying that officers are entitled, when responding to a suicide call, to use deadly force any time they forcibly enter a single-entrance room.”

“We are aware of no ruling that permits this sort of shoot-on-sight response to this class of encounters,” the appeals court declared [PDF].

The appeals court also stated, “McClone did not look through the other windows into the garage to see what Jerome was doing, nor did he try to talk to him. Instead, within three minutes of arriving at the scene, McClone opened fire. Either viewed as so plainly excessive that no analogous case is needed, or viewed in light of existing authority, this was an excessive use of force.” (more…)

The Roundup for May 27th, 2015

International Politics

Overall

– The United Nations passed a resolution condemning attacks against journalists

– Fourteen people, including nine FIFA executives, were arrested by authorities in Switzerland after an indictment by the U.S.; Dave Zirin writes more here

– Sepp Blatter: We welcome an investigation by U.S. officials into FIFA

– UEFA, the European section of soccer, said FIFA elections should be postponed 

– Talks between P5+1 and Iran may go beyond the June 30 deadline, an Iranian official said

– One French official said, if Iran refused to open its military sites, the deal should be called off

Middle East

– Islamic State militants launched suicide attacks against Iraqi forces in the Anbar province and 17 soldiers died

At least 80 people were killed in Yemen due to Saudi-led airstrikes

– A United Nations official said the rise of executions in Saudi Arabia was troubling

– Tony Blair will no longer be an envoy for peace in the Middle East; A position he relinquished after supporting the Iraq War

– At a trial of a Washington Post journalist in Iraq, a letter sent by Jason Rezaian to President Barack Obama was referred to in court (more…)

Over Easy: Around the World

Welcome to Thursday’s Over Easy, a continuation of Southern Dragon’s Lakeside Diner and its tradition of giving an overview of news our everyday media doesn’t cover, issues that we ought to consider outside the U.S. scene.

A raid by Swiss justice officers on the Zurich headquarters of FIFA, worldwide governing body of the sport the U.S. calls soccer, kicked off a corruption crackdown that has been assisted by Charles Blazer, the former head of Concacaf, working undercover..

Amid the U.S. indictments released Wednesday, Swiss authorities indicated that they were separately investigating the processes by which the 2018 and 2022 World Cup host country sites were secured. The United States narrowly lost out on hosting the latter competition to Qatar, whose securing of the tournament has been overshadowed by concerns over alleged human rights abuses of its migrant labor force.

According to SIU law professor Dervan, part of the reason the DOJ may have launched its investigation into FIFA is because of the widely held belief that corruption influenced the body’s decision to award Qatar the World Cup — thus negatively impacting U.S. commerce and legal norms.

Representatives of the two tribes with members  in the legislative body, Penobscots and Passamaquoddies, withdrew from the Maine legislature as a protest of state attitudes injurious to the tribes’ interests.

As Dana and Mitchell were leaving, a number of lawmakers accompanied them and joined a protest held in the statehouse courtyard.

“The Passamaquoddy and Penobscot people will always have a place in the Maine House,” said House speaker Mark Eves of North Berwick.

”I hope they will reclaim their seats,” he added without elaborating how it may come about.

Technology that can meddle with the DNA of human embryos has been opposed by world bodies that are concerned about its implication for the future of the species.

The technique allows researchers to artificially insert or remove parts of the DNA.

Nascent work in the field has already led to fierce patent battles between start-up companies and universities that say it could prove as profitable and revolutionary as recombinant DNA technology, which was developed in the 1970s and 1980s and launched the biotechnology industry.

But CRISPR has also brought ethical concerns. Use of the technology provoked strong criticism from some scientists last month, after it was employed in China to alter the DNA of human embryos.

Never.Give.Up.

Late Night FDL: A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop

Neil Young + Promise Of The Real – A Rock Star Bucks A Coffee Shop

Rock On, Neil…!

Neil Young has set his targets on American corporations with the Monsanto and Starbucks copping the wrath of Young in the upcoming ‘The Monsanto Years’ album.

Young’s ‘The Monsanto Years’ is his most lyrically vicious album since Neil tore George W. Bush a new arsehole with the ‘Living With War’ album in 2006.

‘The Monsanto Years’ is about the corporate greed of the publicly listed Monsanto Corporation in the USA that genetically modifies food. The company also manufactured Agent Orange, the herbicide weapon used by the American government during the Vietnam War.

Earlier this week Young said in a statement:

‘Contrary to the misleading information coming from Starbucks, the coffee company is in alliance with other Food Giants, including Monsanto, in suing the state of Vermont to overturn the GMO labeling laws voted for by the people.

‘An alliance is a pact, coalition or friendship between two or more parties, made in order to advance common goals and to secure common interests. Starbucks and Monsanto are members of the Grocery Manufacturers Alliance.

‘The Grocery Manufacturers Alliance sued the state of Vermont to overturn the people’s will to mandate GMO labeling in Vermont.

‘In communications with Starbucks the company was unresponsive to the direct question on whether Starbuck’s coffee product contained GMOs’.

By raising awareness of Monsanto, Young has also brought into question the values of U2’s Bono who supports Monsantos move to use Africa to harvest Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) because, according to NaturalNews.com ‘They’re future consumers for the United States.’

Neil Young has created ‘The Monsanto Years’ with Promise of the Real. an LA-based rock band fronted by Lukas Nelson (vocals/guitar), along with Micah Nelson (guitar, vocals), Anthony Logerfo (drums), Corey McCormick (bass) and Tato Melgar (percussion). The Nelson brothers are the sons of Willie Nelson.

What’s on your mind tonite…?

Bill Moyers: The Challenge of Journalism Is to Survive in the Pressure Cooker of Plutocracy

By Bill Moyers

This post first appeared on BillMoyers.com.

The following remarks were made by Bill Moyers at the presentation of the Helen Bernstein Book Awards for Excellence in Journalism. The ceremony took place at the New York Public Library on May 26, 2015.


Thank you for allowing me to share this evening with you. I’m delighted to meet these exceptional journalists whose achievements you honor with the Helen Bernstein Book Award.

But I gulped when [New York Public Library President] Tony Marx asked me to talk about the challenges facing journalism today and gave me 10 to 15 minutes to do so. I seriously thought of taking a powder. Those challenges to journalism are so well identified, so mournfully lamented, and so passionately debated that I wonder if the subject isn’t exhausted. Or if we aren’t exhausted from hearing about it. I wouldn’t presume to speak for journalism or for other journalists or for any journalist except myself. Ted Gup, who teaches journalism at Emerson and Boston College, once bemoaned the tendency to lump all of us under the term “media.” As if everyone with a pen, a microphone, a camera (today, a laptop or smartphone) – or just a loud voice – were all one and the same. I consider myself a journalist. But so does James O’Keefe. Matt Drudge is not E.J. Dionne. The National Review is not The Guardian, or Reuters TheHuffington Post. Ann Coulter doesn’t speak for Katrina vanden Heuvel, or Rush Limbaugh for Ira Glass. Yet we are all “media” and as Ted Gup says, “the media” speaks for us all.

So I was just about to email Tony to say, “Sorry, you don’t want someone from the Jurassic era to talk about what’s happening to journalism in the digital era,” when I remembered one of my favorite stories about the late humorist Robert Benchley. He arrived for his final exam in international law at Harvard to find that the test consisted of one instruction: “Discuss the international fisheries problem in respect to hatcheries protocol and dragnet and procedure as it affects (a) the point of view of the United States and (b) the point of view of Great Britain.” Benchley was desperate but he was also honest, and he wrote: “I know nothing about the point of view of Great Britain in the arbitration of the international fisheries problem, and nothing about the point of view of the United States. I shall therefore discuss the question from the point of view of the fish.”

So shall I, briefly. One small fish in the vast ocean of media.

(more…)

Memo to US Attorney General Loretta Lynch: More Indictments Like FIFA Please

[Skip the first minute which is a pitch to renew the Patriot Act]

Our new Attorney General of the United States, Loretta Lynch, made a big announcement today and I am not talking about another agreement with a criminal bank that agrees to pay a pithy multi-millio-dollar fine without admitting it did anything wrong.

At a press conference this morning, Lynch announced the unsealing of a new 47-count indictment charging 14  world soccer figures, including officials of FIFA, with racketeering, bribery, money laundering and fraud. Four of those accused, including two sports marketing companies, have already pleaded guilty and are likely to be cooperating. From the Washington Post,

Among the “alleged schemes,” said the Justice Department, were kickbacks to FIFA officials by executives and companies involved in soccer marketing and “bribes and kickbacks in connection” with “the selection of the host country for the 2010 World Cup and the 2011 FIFA presidential election.” FIFA is the French abbreviation for the international Federation of Football Associations, the global governing body of soccer.

Swiss prosecutors, in a related announcement, said they had opened criminal proceedings against unidentified individuals on suspicion of mismanagement and money laundering related to the awarding of rights to host the 2018 World Cup in Russia and the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

The separate Swiss probe includes “electronic data and documents” seized at FIFA’s headquarters in Zurich, the Swiss prosecutor’s office said. Swiss police said they will question at least 10 FIFA executive committee members who took part in the World Cup votes in December 2010 that named Russia and Qatar as host nations for the next two tournaments.

/snip/

Those charged, the Justice Department said, “include U.S. and South American sports marketing executives who are alleged to have systematically paid and agreed to pay well over $150 million in bribes and kickbacks to obtain lucrative media and marketing rights to international soccer tournaments.”

“Jeffrey Webb and Jack Warner — the current and former presidents of CONCACAF, the continental confederation under FIFA headquartered in the United States — are among the soccer officials charged with racketeering and bribery offenses,” the Justice Department said.

The indictment was unsealed after Swiss police arrested six members of FIFA’s governing body. The New York Times captured the moment.

 

The lobby of the Baur au Lac, a 171-year-old five-star hotel here in downtown Zurich, was serene in the early hours of Wednesday morning.

Bundles of newspapers were tossed on the front doorstep. A cleaner wearing a black uniform buffed the marble floors. The concierge fielded a call from a guest asking whether a local pharmacy could deliver medicine.

Then, when its Swiss clocks struck 6, more than a dozen law enforcement officers in street clothes entered without a fuss through a revolving door at the front of the hotel. They headed straight to the front desk, where they presented government documents and demanded the room numbers of some of the most high-profile officials in soccer, who were staying at the hotel ahead of the annual meeting of FIFA, the sport’s global governing body.

Suddenly, the venerable Baur au Lac, a way station for musicians, artists and royalty, and, the hotel says, the place where the Nobel Peace Prize was born, was transformed into something akin to a crime scene. The concierge was instructed to call one executive’s room, and one of the most significant takedowns in international sports history was under way.

“Sir,” the concierge said in English, “I’m just calling you to say that we’re going to need you to come to your door and open it for us or we’re going to have to kick it in.”

/snip/

While the arrests went seamlessly, chaos ensued at the Baur au Lac’s front desk. Just minutes after news of the operation broke, the phone began to ring incessantly. At the same time, the officers began returning to the front desk to ask for access to other parts of the hotel.

“Sir, we don’t have any information — please call later,” the concierge said to a caller before slamming the phone down.

/snip/

After all the arrests were complete, a hulking man in a suit arrived at the front desk. He asked if anyone knew the whereabouts of one of the FIFA executives.

“His wife doesn’t know what to do or where he is,” the man said.

By 9 a.m., the hotel, which had hosted a wedding the night before, was blanketed by private security guards. Outside, reporters gathered and set up cameras for live television shots. Inside, the wives and girlfriends of the men who had been arrested sat together in an ornate lounge off the main foyer. The women crowded around a computer and watched an Internet stream of Walter de Gregorio, FIFA’s chief spokesman, as he addressed a news conference at the governing body’s headquarters just a few miles down the road.

As de Gregorio spoke about how, in his opinion, this was actually “a good day” for FIFA — because ridding the organization of corruption is a priority — the women leaned closer. One of them began to cry.

And now for my contribution. The basis for federal jurisdiction is the defendants allegedly conducted meetings in the United States, used US banks to wire money around, used the US postal service to communicate with each other as well as email and used phones to discuss their dirty business.

They obviously did not see this coming.

Conspicuously left out of the indictment is Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA. His freedom may be short-lived, however, as he has been the subject of much speculation that he ran the pay-to-play scheme.

With defendants expected to fall like dominoes for cooperation agreements to testify against others, both known and unknown to the grand jury, he may find that he has something to cry about.

Oh, and one more thing. His recent announcement that he would not revisit the decisions to award the World Cup to Russia in 2018 and Qatar in 2022. may end up being, how can I say this diplomatically, ah yes, revisited.

Oh, and another question: Are the NFL owners, NBA owners and NCAA reaching for the Rolaids and calling their lawyers?

Will the NSA and or FBI be listening?

Seven officials arrested today:

1. Rafael Esquivel

2. Nicolas Leoz

3. Jeffrey Webb

4. Jack Warner

5. Eduardo Li

6. Eugenio Figueredo

7. Jose Maria Marin

FYI: John Oliver roasted Sepp Blatter on his HBO comedy show Last Week Tonight. Here’s most of it:

 

 

 

With Deadline in Sight, Senate Scrambles on Patriot Act

Sen. Dianne Feinstein pushes new legislation that would criminalize whistleblower activity on national security

By Nadia Prupis

As public outcry against government spying reaches a fever pitch, the U.S. Senate is scrambling to address the USA Patriot Act, key sections of which are currently speeding toward expiration.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday warned the Senate—which is on a weeklong Memorial Day recess—to pass legislation that would renew those provisions, such as Section 215, which are scheduled to sunset on June 1.

“The problem we have now is that those authorities run out at midnight on Sunday,” Obama said. “So I strongly urge the Senate to work through this recess and make sure that they identify a way to get this done.”

The Senate on Friday rejected the legislation, known as the USA Freedom Act, which would have ended the National Security Agency’s (NSA) authority to collect domestic phone records in bulk, but would have renewed Section 215 and other controversial provisions of the Patriot Act which are set to expire next week. The U.S. House passed the USA Freedom Act on May 14.

On Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s watch, lawmakers are set to reconvene on Sunday, May 31 to vote again on the USA Freedom Act, as well as on another deal proposed—and rejected—last week that would have temporarily extended the Patriot Act.

The Senate will also consider legislation introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), which would prohibit “unauthorized disclosures” by an “officer, employee, contractor, or consultant of the United States” or any “recipient of an order” issued under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), who “knowingly comes into possession of classified information or documents or materials containing classified information” of the U.S.

As Kevin Gosztola writes at Firedoglake, Feinstein’s bill—modeled after the Espionage Act—”would not only save spying powers but also codify into law a provision that would expressly enable the government to criminalize any national security whistleblower who may choose to follow the footsteps of NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden.”

Observers say that the chances are slim that the Senate will embrace any of those bills after overwhelmingly rejecting two of them so recently—and that’s just what privacy advocates are hoping for.

The USA Freedom Act has gotten a lukewarm reception by digital rights organizations like Fight for the Future and the Electronic Frontier Foundation over what they say are insufficient reforms of the NSA’s spying powers.

Fight for the Future called the Senate’s rejection of the bill on Friday a “historic tactical win against surveillance.”

“Sunsetting the Patriot Act is the biggest win for ending mass surveillance programs,” Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future, a coalition of civil liberties and privacy rights organizations, said at the time. “We are seeing history in the making and it was because the public stood up for our rights to freedom of expression and freedom of association—and there’s no turning back now.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation explained the setup succinctly last week, with senior staff attorney Lee Tien writing in a blog post that the gridlock is “good news: if the Senate stalemate continues, the mass surveillance of everyone’s phone records will simply expire on June 1.”

“We commend every Senator who voted against reauthorizing the unconstitutional surveillance of millions of law-abiding Americans,” Tien wrote.

Congress should again reject renewing Section 215 on Sunday and instead “turn to addressing other surveillance abuses by the US government, including mass surveillance of the Internet, the secretive and one-sided FISA Court, and the problems of secrecy and over-classification that have created the environment that allowed such spying overreach to flourish,” he continued.

As ACLU legislative counsel Michelle Richardson wrote in an op-ed last Friday, “The question before Congress and the American people now is whether that provision should be renewed. The answer is a clear and resounding no.

“Voting for reauthorization of Section 215 now would not just be a missed opportunity for a serious debate about the role of government surveillance in our democracy; it would be an endorsement of the unconstitutional surveillance programs we already know exist, and a tacit endorsement of those we’re still in the dark about.”

———————-

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