With the press all atwitter over the female liaisons of now ex-CIA director and retired four star General David Petraeus, Robin Wright argues in The Atlantic that the “real” scandal is how virtually no one in the same media class bothered to question Petraeus’ role at the nation’s leading intelligence agency. Having gained hero status for his role in the Iraq “surge” and similar work in Afghanistan, Petraeus was a man steeped in warfare and the brutal nature of armed conflicts. He brought that mindset with him to the CIA when President Obama tapped Petraeus to lead the agency in 2011. There, the old general simply continued fighting wars, overseeing the most aggressive stage of the CIA’s “creeping militarization” that has turned the intelligence outfit into a veritable air force of unmanned armed drones.
A tangled story like the one that has unfolded involving the marital infidelity of CIA director Gen. David Petraeus is proverbial “catnip” the mainstream press. But behind the steamy — and frivolous — details lies a much more important headline. Namely, that the FBI is imbued with unprecedented and far-reaching authority to spy on ordinary American citizens. The affair Petraues allegedly conducted with his biographer was only uncovered thanks to high-tech snooping of the email accounts of Petraeus’ civilian paramour and another non-military woman by FBI agents. Secretly hacking into the email accounts of citizens not under investigation for any crime was probably immoral, but entirely legal. Thanks to various cybercrime and anti-terrorism legislation and executive orders, the FBI and other US intelligence agencies have considerable leeway in conducting surveillance of virtually any American at home or abroad, all without any quaint notions of just cause.
Some environmental activists cheered when they heard President Obama mention the threat of a “warming planet” during his victory speech upon winning reelection last Tuesday. But more sober analysts of the president’s intentions on how to save the planet, like author Bill McKibben, recognize that pleasing rhetoric does not change the political reality in the White House. Obama will face new pressure after he won a second term thanks largely to the organizational power of supporters who believe climate change is the greatest threat facing America today. The first benchmark for Obama’s second term, McKibben writes, is what he plans to do with the infamous Keystone XL oil pipeline. Scientists have proclaimed the pipeline as the defining moment as to whether the United States — and world leaders — will finally get serious about curbing fossil fuel dependency and seeking a path to deflect the ravages of climate change. The proposal for Keystone remains on Obama’s desk, lobbied for by a former White House aide, and oil executives are confident the administration will give the final green light now that the silly business of the election is over.
(Lincoln Journal Star)
WHEN CAN THE “CRIME” OF CHARGING A CELL PHONE AT A PUBLIC PARK LAND YOU IN THE SLAMMER? WHEN YOU’RE A HOMELESS MAN.
Police in Sarasota, Florida arrested a 28-year-old homeless man over the weekend after officers found him charging a cell phone at one of the electrical outlets in a picnic shelter at a city park. Such an act is not typically considered a crime, especially one that led police to incarcerate the homeless man overnight. But the officer in charge of the apprehension said that he considered the “theft of city utilities” in a “bad economy” to be worthy of arrest. A local judge quickly threw out the case on the grounds that there was no legal justification for the police to act. The incident might be regarded as a puzzling if mildly humorous affair were it not for the disturbing track record of the Sarasota Police Department in recognizing the legal rights of homeless individuals. ACLU officials have been “monitoring” the police after a controversial program designed to keep homeless people of of public downtown sidewalks, resulting in thousands of trespassing warrants being issued. Activists and the homeless are now worried about the consequences of a city crackdown on electric outlets at park shelters, outlets used by many disadvantaged residents to power vital devices from phones to wheelchairs.
(Sarasota Herald Tribune)
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