Surveillance State Unchecked: Secret Spy Court Rejected Zero Requests in 2012

By: Thursday May 2, 2013 6:30 pm

An annual report to the United States Senate by the Justice Department shows the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court did not deny one single request made to the court by federal law enforcement. All applications to conduct electronic surveillance or “physical searches for foreign intelligence purposes” were granted.

 

Senate Reauthorizes Surveillance Law for Five More Years Without Reform

By: Friday December 28, 2012 9:51 am

The United States Senate reauthorized a surveillance law that grants the government expanded authority to collec communications of foreign persons outside the US. It also is believed to permit the government to engage in dragnet surveillance of Americans’ communications. The program under the FISA Amendments Act is shrouded in immense secrecy, with there being very little information on whether safeguards against eavesdropping on citizens’ communications are being followed by intelligence agencies like the National Security Agency.

A Few Senators Take a Stand for Civil Liberties Ahead of Surveillance Law Reauthorization

By: Thursday December 27, 2012 5:38 pm

A surveillance law that granted the government expanded authority to collect the communications of foreign persons outside the United States four years ago is set to expire in four days unless reauthorized. On Thursday, senators concerned about how the law has been interpreted in secret and how these secret interpretations permit the collection or interception of Americans’ communications put forward amendments to the reauthorization and were permitted to engage in what passes for debate in Congress these days.

Though Liberals Carp at Chained CPI, Pelosi Says She Could Live With It

By: Tuesday December 18, 2012 3:10 pm

You will hear virtually nobody claim that chained CPI represents a more accurate way of determining the cost of living for senior citizens on Social Security, because if they were honest about it, they would tailor an inflation index to the real costs of seniors. The only benefit to chained CPI is that it saves the government money at the expense of senior citizens. That’s it. It’s a back-door way of lowering the benefit.

Republicans and Democrats Speak Out Against “Too Big to Jail” HSBC Case

By: Monday December 17, 2012 9:05 am

Where is Patrick Leahy on this? He has made no public statement on the HSBC case, despite being the co-author of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, which was supposed to deliver funds toward prosecuting fraudulent big bank activity (it never actually did). Grassley, a co-author, has spoken out. Why not Leahy?

Senate Passes Amendment to Withdraw From Afghanistan at “Steady Pace”

By: Thursday November 29, 2012 3:13 pm

The Senate, in an amendment to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, accepted a measure written by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) calling for a continued drawdown of US troops from Afghanistan, at a “steady pace” through the end of 2014, and a close to all combat operation “at the earliest date” possible.

The news here is that Merkley got a filibuster-proof majority for that measure, for the first time, with 12 Republicans and 50 out of 51 Democrats in support (Lieberman, of course, voted no; Wyden and McCaskill didn’t vote today).

Banks Want Another Account to Disguise Their Risky Trades

By: Wednesday August 29, 2012 4:20 pm

Whither the Volcker rule? After a flurry of discussion about it in the wake of JPMorgan Chase’s Fail Whale trades, we’ve heard significantly less of late. In fact, regulators blew through a July deadline on finalizing the Volcker rule. The last word we had was that the deadline was pushed back to the end of the year.

More time means more opportunity for big banks to lobby over various exemptions. And that’s just what they’re doing, attempting to take a little loophole they found in the initial language and blow it wide open.

When Gridlock Works: Cybersecurity Bill Stuffed, for Now

By: Thursday August 2, 2012 1:00 pm

The Senate, unable to come up with a schedule for amendments, blocked the cybersecurity bill today in an outcome that, despite being a result of Republican obstruction, satisfied Internet activists who had been urging a no vote.

Geithner Gives Thumbs-Up to Merkley’s HOLC-Like Mortgage Plan

By: Thursday July 26, 2012 2:48 pm

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner gave a fairly strong endorsement to Jeff Merkley’s plan to set up an HOLC-type authority to purchase and refinance current underwater mortgages, and plans to work with him to set up pilot programs by the end of the year.

Testifying before the Senate Banking Committee today, Geither was asked by Merkley about the plan, which I profiled here. Geithner’s response was surprisingly positive.

Jeff Merkley’s HOLC-Type Plan for Underwater Borrowers

By: Thursday July 26, 2012 7:21 am

Despite the heavily lobbied narrative that housing is in the midst of a recovery, the reality is far more stark. New-home and existing-home sales fell last month, and what stability we’re seeing on prices comes in large part from a massive shadow REO that isn’t sustainable. Mortgage delinquencies actually rose in June. And you have 11 million underwater homeowners who are sitting ducks to fall into delinquency, with one financial shock potentially putting them into that category. What’s more, many of them are unable to take advantage of low mortgage rates for refinancing.

The Administration’s efforts on this front have been sadly lacking. But Senator Jeff Merkley is out with a plan that should have been adopted years ago.

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