Friday, May 2, 2014
The White House has asked legislators crafting competing reforms of the National Security Agency to provide legal immunity for telecommunications firms that provide the government with customer data, the Guardian has learned.
In a statement of principles privately delivered to lawmakers some weeks ago to guide surveillance reforms, the White House said it wanted legislation protecting “any person who complies in good faith with an order to produce records” from legal liability for complying with court orders for phone records to the government once the NSA no longer collects the data in bulk.
The brief request, contained in a four-page document, echoes a highly controversial provision of the 2008 Fisa Amendments Act, which providedretroactive immunity to the telecommunications companies that allowed the NSA to access calls and call data between Americans and foreigners, voiding lawsuits against them. Barack Obama’s vote for that bill as a senator and presidential candidate disappointed many supporters.
A congressional aide said the telecommunications companies were expected to “fight hard” for the provision to survive in any surveillance bill. Those firms, including Verizon and AT&T, have typically kept far more silent in public about NSA surveillance and their role in it than internet giants, like Yahoo and Google, which have pushed for reforms.
Unlike in 2008, the firms are not facing a spate of lawsuits, althoughVerizon was named as a defendant in Larry Klayman’s suit against the Obama administration challenging the constitutionality of bulk phone metadata collection.
A senior administration official noted that the provision is typical for surveillance law, to protect companies who comply with Fisa court orders for customer data.
“This would refer to any new orders issued by the court under the new regime we are proposing. This is similar to the way the rest of Fisa already operates, and Fisa already contains virtually identical language for its other provisions, including Section 215,” the official said, referring to the portion of the Patriot Act cited as justification for bulk phone data collection.
The telecommunications immunity is already contained within a billauthored by the House intelligence committee leadership, key legislative allies of the NSA.
Credit to The Guardian
A spokesman for Vladimir Putin said the Geneva agreement to defuse the situation in eastern Ukraine was no longer viable after Kiev launched a military operation against the rebel-held city of Slavyansk on Friday.
The Ukrainian military launched its first serious offensive to retake the city, which is being held by pro-Russia militia, early on Friday morning. The rebel militia said Ukrainian troops had launched attacks on several checkpoints. Ukraine's defence minister, Arsen Avakov, said his forces had taken control of nine checkpoints to form a "tight ring" around the city.
Two Ukrainian helicopters were shot down and their pilots killed, both Russian and Ukrainian media reported. One militant was killed and another injured, according to the reports. Ukraine's security service said one helicopter had been brought down by a surface-to-air missile, citing this as evidence that Slavyansk's defenders were not just citizens who had armed themselves.
Four of those who had shot at helicopters were captured, Ukraine's defence ministry said, but rebel leader Vyacheslav Ponomaryov denied this.
"Basically, at the same time that Russia is taking pains to de-escalate and regulate the conflict, the Kiev regime has begun shooting up peaceful towns with military helicopters and has started a punitive operation, essentially destroying the last hope for the viability of the Geneva agreement," Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said.
"Earlier, when he was still in Minsk, Putin called the possible operation a criminal action. Unfortunately, the development of events completely confirms this appraisal."
Russia, Ukraine, the US and the EU agreed in Geneva last month on a series of steps to reduce tensions in eastern Ukraine, where pro-Russia protesters and militia have seized government buildings in at least a dozen towns and cities.
The agreement called on illegal armed groups laying down their weapons and vacating buildings in exchange for a broad amnesty, but since it was signed, Kiev and Moscow have accused each other of not pressuring their supporters to disarm.
The US and EU have both imposed sanctions in response to what they said was Russia's failure to force pro-Kremlin militia in eastern Ukraine to stand down. Angela Merkel arrives on Friday in Washington for talks with Barack Obama; the Ukraine crisis is expected to feature.
Fears remain that fighting in eastern Ukraine could trigger a Russian invasion. In a telephone conversation with the German chancellor on Thursday, Putin said Kiev should pull its forces back from the eastern and southern regions of the country. Russia has been massing tens of thousands of its own troops on the border amid warnings it could intervene to protect Russian speakers in Ukraine.
In a statement on Friday, Russia's foreign ministry accused the Ukrainian military of launching rocket strikes at protesters and claimed it had used ultranationalists from the group Right Sector and "English-speaking foreigners", who it suggested were American mercenaries.
"As we have warned many times before, the use of the army against its own people is a crime and is leading Ukraine to catastrophe," the statement said.
"By supporting the organisers of the Kiev coup in their strategy of violently putting down protests, the US and EU are taking on a huge responsibility, essentially closing the door to a peaceful solution to the crisis," it added.
On Monday, Russian defence minister Sergei Shoigu said Russia had moved back its forces to their home bases, but a Nato official later said the alliance had seen no indication of such a withdrawal.
During the telephone call, Merkel called on Putin to throw his weight behind attempts to free seven international observers from the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe who are being held by militia in Slavyansk. Putin dispatched Russia's former human rights ombudsman on Thursday to try to negotiate their release
Credit to The Guardian
Credit to WND
The earlier Ukraine "anti-terrorist" operation in Solvyansk has resulted in the death of at least 2 servicemen and now tensions are roiling in Odessa as the Ukraine government tries to live up to the IMF's demands or "fight or no money". Violent clashes have broken out at a pro-Ukraine rally in Odessa and at least one person is dead. As the live feed below shows, things are getting out of control fast. Ukraine's acting president adds:
- *TURCHYNOV SAYS OPERATION PROGRESSING SLOWER THAN GOVT WANTED
- *TURCHYNOV URGES SEPARATISTS TO LAY DOWN WEAPONS AND SURRENDER
- *UKRAINE REBELS HIDING BEHIND HOSTAGES, CIVILIANS: TURCHYNOV
Ukrainian authorities have also banned Russian air companies from making flights to the eastern Ukrainian cities; and, perhaps ironically to some, Russia has called for an emergency UN meeting to discuss Ukraine's actions.
The initial operation started in Solvyansk...
- UKRAINE'S ACTING PRESIDENT SAYS OPERATION IN EASTERN TOWN OF SLAVIANSK WAS COMPLICATED BY THE USE OF HUMAN SHIELDS, DID NOT PROGRESS AS QUICKLY AS HOPED FOR
- UKRAINE'S ACTING PRESIDENT SAYS OPERATION IN SLAVIANSK CONTINUES, CALLS ON PRO-RUSSIAN SEPARATISTS TO LAY DOWN ARMS, FREE HOSTAGES
- *SLOVYANSK REBELS SUFFERED `SIGNIFICANT' LOSSES: TURCHYNOV
Then they moved to Odessa:
- *CLASHES BREAK OUT AT PRO-UKRAINIAN RALLY IN ODESSA
- *ONE PERSON DEAD IN ODESSA CLASHES, HROMADSKE TV REPORTS
"There are at least 10 injured, have shrapnel wounds, there is a traumatic injury from a weapon. At the moment, both sides are building barricades in different areas of the city center, some of the streets has captured one side, some - other "
According to local media, the site of the collision are fifteen hundred aggressive young people, many of whom are armed. Gathered chanting: "Glory to Ukraine!", "Death to the enemies", "Moskal knives." In the course went firecrackers, smoke grenades, batons. Fighting used stones from the dismantled bridge, there were "Molotov cocktails". People continue to arrive.
With Molotov Cocktails flying...
And mass brawls:
Credit to Zero Hedge