Friday, May 8, 2015

Moving…

This web site is moving to: http://www.megalexto … y/news-and-politics/

This site will remain here for the foreseeable future but will no longer be updated.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

FCC Commissioner: Feds May Come for Drudge

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) member Ajit Pai said over the weekend that he foresees a future in which federal regulators will seek to regulate websites based on political content, using the power of the FCC or Federal Elections Commission (FEC). He also revealed that his opposition to “net neutrality” regulations had resulted in personal harassment and threats to his family.

Speaking on a panel at the annual “Right Online” conference in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, Pai told audience members, “I can tell you it has not been an easy couple of months personally. My address has been publicly released. My wife’s name, my kids’ names, my kids’ birthdays, my phone number, all kinds of threats [have come] online.”

Pai, one of two Republicans on the five-member FCC, has been an outspoken critic of net neutrality regulations passed by the agency on Feb. 26. The rules, which are set to take effect on June 12, reclassify Internet providers as utilities and command them not to block or “throttle” online traffic.

However, Pai said it was only the beginning. In the future, he said, “I could easily see this migrating over to the direction of content… What you’re seeing now is an impulse not just to regulate the roads over which traffic goes, but the traffic itself.”

Continuing, he said, “It is conceivable to me to see the government saying, ‘We think the Drudge Report is having a disproportionate effect on our political discourse. He doesn’t have to file anything with the FEC. The FCC doesn’t have the ability to regulate anything he says, and we want to start tamping down on websites like that.’”

In February, Pai co-authored an editorial with former FEC Chairman Lee Goodman that warned of efforts by those agencies to regulate content online.

[Read More…]

Liberals, conservatives unite vs. NSA spying

In an ornate room on the first floor of the Capitol, some of the most liberal members of Congress met for lunch on Thursday with nearly a dozen stalwart conservatives who’ve repeatedly taken on their own leadership for being too soft.

The agenda consisted of a single topic, perhaps the only one that would bring together such ideologically divergent politicians in Washington at this moment: their shared disdain for the PATRIOT Act.

With key provisions of the controversial post-9/11 law set to expire at the end of the month, including authority for the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, critics in both parties are preparing to strike. Among those on hand for the meeting were Democratic Rep. Mark Pocan, a card-carrying ACLU member from the liberal mecca of Madison, Wisconsin, and GOP Rep. Thomas Massie, a tea party adherent from Kentucky.

“The collection of data is still way too wide and can still be too easily abused,” Pocan said of the NSA program exposed by Edward Snowden two years ago.

The USA Freedom Act is expected to come to the House floor for a vote this month. The bill would narrow the government’s collection of phone records only to individuals suspected of being a terrorist or connected to terror cells, while extending much of the existing surveillance authority. Telecommunications providers would still amass the telephone data, but the NSA could access certain records only after securing an order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

[Read More…]

Friday, May 1, 2015

The IRS Was Very Naughty, But It’s Sorry, Says Inspector General

Even as the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reports the discovery of thousands (!) of Lois Lerner lost-in-action emails, we’re told the IRS “has taken significant actions” to avoid the sort of politicized shenanigans that got the former tax-administering bureaucrat in such hot water to begin with. Only time will tell whether the recovered missives reveal deliberate targeting of conservative tax-exempt organizations as part of an effort to hobble critics of the administration, but Inspector General Russell George and company have already concluded that right-leaning groups received inappropriate scrutiny—and say that the tax agency is taking steps to make sure that this particular transgression isn’t repeated. For what that’s worth.

The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration notes:

The report is a follow-up to a May 2013 TIGTA report, which found that ineffective IRS management resulted in: 1) the use of inappropriate criteria to identify for review organizations applying for tax-exempt status based on names and policy positions instead of indications of political campaign intervention; 2) substantially delayed processing of certain applications, and, 3) the issuance of unnecessary information requests.

And before we even get into it, the IG told inquiring members of Congress two years ago that conservative groups did indeed receive special attention not given to those leaning to the left. “Our audit did not find evidence that the IRS used the ‘progressives’ identifier as selection criteria for potential political cases between May 2010 and May 2012,” he wrote to Rep. Sandy Levin (D-Mich.). All of the groups with “Tea Party,” “patriots” and “9/12” in their name got the treatment, compared to 30 percent of the groups with “progress” or “progressive” in their names.

This continues a long tradition in this country of the IRS being wielded as a political weapon.

[Read More…]

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Rand Paul, DHS chief tangle on encryption

Republican presidential hopeful Rand Paul tangled with a top Obama administration official Wednesday on the matter of protecting data privacy through encryption.

The Kentucky senator questioned Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson on the bulk collection of phone records, and argued that consumers’ desire for encryption is a response to government surveillance.

“The real culprit is government,” Paul said during a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing.

“You’ve been so overzealous vacuuming up our records without a legitimate warrant … [Encryption] is a response to a government that didn’t have a real sense of decency toward privacy.”
Paul also criticized the government for surveillance during the civil rights era, which he described as a cautionary tale.

“Look at the time the government wasn’t so good. The FBI director recently pointed back and talked about the times that Martin Luther King was spied upon. That’s why we want these procedural protections,” he said.

Johnson, who has been making the rounds in tech circles arguing against full encryption, declined to weigh in on bulk data collection but urged Congress to act.

“I’m in favor of a balanced solution to the [encryption] problem,” he said, adding that encrypting records makes it harder to conduct criminal investigations. “I think it’s something we need to address.”

[Read More…]