Beltway Insider: NSA Obtains Phone Records; Susan Rice Appointed; May Job Numbers; Storm Damage Squeezes Federal Budget

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President Obama, without addressing how the top secret document was obtained, defended the secrecy surrounding the request the National Security Agency has secretly sought and received access to millions of Verizon phone numbers.  

According to Gallup, President Obama’s job approval, over the past week, rose a single percentage point to 48% of those polled approve of his effectiveness as President and those who disapprove of his effectiveness as President remained at 44%.

National Security Administration Secures Verizon Phone Records

United States Attorney General Eric Holder testified before the House Judiciary committee this week defending the actions of his office and the National Security Agency over a top secret request granted by a federal judge in Washington D.C. that allowed access to millions of Americans phone records.

A leak in the British newspaper, Guardian, which also obtained a copy and published the court order granting the NSA access of millions of phone records, including landline and cell phone numbers and most telephone data associated with Verizon account holders created a brief Watergate buzz as news media agencies were quick to attack the secrecy of the covert intelligence gathering request.  The order did not grant permission, and at this time, there has been no push the NSA for conversation content information.

Holder stated during his testimony “this is not the forum” and “we’re not prepared to address those questions,” when asked what the records would be used for and if they planned to spy on Congress. He also indicated Congressional leaders had been fully briefed on the intelligence gathering method.

Data Mining, as this governmental fishing expedition has been called, allows the federal authorities to access phone numbers without accessing content of conversations.

Privacy rights advocates see this action as an invasion on the last shred of privacy rights the American people hold which is an extreme view. Even President Obama’s liberal party loyalists are outraged. Former Presidential candidate Al Gore stated, a Twitter “In the digital era, privacy must be a priority. Is it just me or is a secret blanket surveillance obscenely outrageous?”

Obama’s republican opponents applauded the efforts including South Carolina Senator Lindsay Graham who stated, “I have no problem. I’m a Verizon customer. You can have my phone number and put it in the database. If they get a hot between me and some guy from Waziristan, official should investigate.”

President Obama indicated this method of gathering data has been very successful in the past and as the security needs of the United States have evolved so have the methods of gathering information.

The debate over accessing millions of Americans phone records may very well be an invasion of privacy, and it is no more concerning than the microchip implants described in an Associated Press 2003 article, “Pentagon’s Diary Gets Personal” which indicated the chips had been in the research and development stage at DAPRA and had been put out for government contract. The more palatable program called Life-Logging has evolved since 2003 moving from molar implant, for virtually undetectable surveillance and particularly ground reconnaissance, to skin implants, to even the more visible Life-logging innovation by Swedish developer Memoto that allows the user the ability to capture every waking moment.

Supporters are claiming that many terror attacks have been thwarted and although exact numbers have not been offered lawmakers are not denying the method works.

This method of data mining was used to flush out the terror network of the Boston Marathon Bombers. Could it have been used to stop the Sandy Hook Massacre? 

Susan Rice Appointed National Security Advisor

President Obama appointed U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice as his National Security Advisor replacing the departing Tom Donilon who leaves the position in early July.

Calling her a “trusted advisor,” Rice has exhibited dedicated service throughout the Clinton Presidency and served the Obama Administration in her current position throughout both his terms. The meritorious appointment, by the president, bypasses the need for senate hearings, confirmation or approval.

 An early front runner for the Secretary of State position that eventually went to former Massachusetts Senator and Presidential hopeful John Kerry, Rice withdrew her name from consideration after she came under intense attack and scrutiny from house republicans over her handling of the Benghazi Terrorist attack.

A career diplomat, Rice was mentored by former Secretary of State Madeline Albright and served under Hillary Clinton throughout her tenure as Secretary of State.

Obama has been criticized for the appointment by leading republicans and former Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has called it “disappointing.”

Rice will assume the duties of National Security Advisor effective early July 2013.

May Job Numbers

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released May Job Numbers this week and the news is certainly not reflective of a downward trend as the overall unemployment rate increased a tenth of a percentage point from 7.5% to 7.6%.

The economy added just 175,000 non-farm jobs which did little to dent the total number of unemployed which stands at 11.8million. Jobs were added in professional, retail and food service.

May graduates, across the board, are facing a smaller job pool with a deeper qualified applicant structure which is not to imply that professional services degrees are worthless. According to the BLS, professional services added 57,000 jobs in May and continued to trend up with 589,000 positions added in the past year. Temp services that provide for professional services added 26,000 positions in May and are a steady employer while qualified applicants seek the permanent positions.

The healthcare industry, which has seen steady job creation over the past year, did not add significant employment over the past month. Direct Hospital employment suffered the loss of 6,000 jobs, while outpatient facilities and other healthcare related employment rose by 11,000 creating a smaller but sustained growth of 5,000 employment opportunities for the month.

In line with sequester cuts, government has shrunk and with that 45,000 federal positions have been eliminated over the past three months.

With the onset of the traditional summer season, food service, leisure and hospitality, increased by 38,000 positions in May and has remained a steady employer with over 337,000 jobs added over the past year.

The next job reports will be released in early July.

Oklahoma Tornados Surpass 2Billion in Damage

The rising cost of natural disasters, coming at a time when the government is slashing and tightening the federal budget and attempting to determine which programs take the next hit in the continued fight over sequester budget cuts, could very well result in a disappearing act of once dependable domestic programs.

The eastern seaboard is still recuperating from Super Storm Sandy, which affected twenty-one states over nine days of unprecedented fury at the end of October 2012 causing over 53billion in damage. Andrea, the first storm of the2013 season, is testing the patience of the weather weary and weakening already taxed infrastructure.

The recent twin EF5 tornados, the widest in history at 2.6 miles and highest sustained winds on record, 296mph, as well as the dozen others that accompanied them, reduced central Oklahoma to a war zone, resulting in over 2billion in damage.  If the 2013 storm season continues on the current trend it could prove to be the costliest storm season to date.

Reducing the loss of life in these apocalyptic disasters, which has vastly improved as evidenced in the recent Oklahoma Tornados which due to sheer size should have resulted in catastrophic loss, can only be credited to early warning systems.

These early warning detection systems and other life saving measures researched and developed through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and well as other agencies, private and public, depend on budget allotments received through domestic and defense dollars which over the next ten years, when they should be advancing, will be shrinking.

FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Administration, at a time when it cannot afford to lose any funding will, like every domestic and defense program, face the same sequester slashing as every other program.

For more information on President Obama: www.whitehouse.gov 

Sources: Gallup, Bureau of Labor Statistics, NBC.com,

 

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