Germany and France are demanding a “no-spying” agreement with the United States following new revelations of National Security Agency espionage. Leaks from Edward Snowden this week show the NSA tapped into the cellphone of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and collected French phone records in bulk. News of the spying dominated the first day of a European Council summit in Brussels, with European leaders uniting in outrage. Appearing with Merkel, French President François Hollande said France and Germany will seek an agreement with the United States before the end of the year on ending the spying.
French President François Hollande: “France and Germany will take an initiative. We will start discussing the matter with the Americans in order to agree upon a common framework, that will be done by the end of the year, and the other Europeans who would like to join us will be welcome. To be more specific, we will make sure that between the various services we can not only clarify what happened in the past, but we can agree upon rules for the future.”
In the latest of Edward Snowden’s revelations, The Guardian newspaper reports the United States has monitored the phone calls of at least 35 world leaders. Staffers at the White House, State Department and the Pentagon were all encouraged to share the contact information of foreign politicians. One government official handed over 200 phone numbers. In Washington, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney refused to comment on the report, repeating his vow that the United States is no longer spying on German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
White House Press Secretary Jay Carney: “We are not going to comment publicly on every specified alleged intelligence activity, and as a matter of policy, we have made clear that the United States gathers foreign intelligence of the type gathered by all nations. As I mentioned yesterday, the president spoke with Chancellor Merkel, reassured her that the United States is not and will not monitor the chancellor’s communications.”
The identities of the 35 leaders targeted by the NSA have not been disclosed. According to a leaked government memo, the spying produced “little reportable intelligence.”
As the diplomatic uproar over National Security Agency spying continues overseas, activists in the United States are holding a protest on Saturday in Washington, D.C. “Stop Watching Us: Rally Against Mass Surveillance” is organized by a coalition of more than 100 groups, companies and public figures. In a statement, Edward Snowden urged supporters to attend, saying: “Today, no telephone in America makes a call without leaving a record with the NSA. Today, no internet transaction enters or leaves America without passing through the NSA’s hands. Our representatives in Congress tell us this is not surveillance. They’re wrong … Join us in sending the message: Stop watching us.”
President Obama is renewing a push for immigration reform in the aftermath of the government shutdown that dominated Capitol Hill for weeks. Speaking in Washington, Obama urged Congress to take action.
President Obama: “But what we can’t do is just sweep the problem under the rug one more time, leave it for somebody else to solve sometime in the future. You know, rather than create problems, let’s prove to the American people that Washington can actually solve some problems. This reform comes as close to anything we’ve got to a law that will benefit everybody now and far into the future. So let’s see if we can get this done. And let’s see if we can get it done this year.”
Contractors involved in the troubled rollout of the nation’s new healthcare exchanges appeared before Congress on Thursday to face questioning from lawmakers. The online portal for uninsured Americans in 36 states has been marred by crashes, glitches and system failures since it went live earlier this month. Cheryl Campbell of the firm CGI Federal vowed improvements in the coming weeks.
Cheryl Campbell: “The system will continue to improve. From our perspective, as painful as it sounds — I know that the experience has been a difficult experience — the system is working. People are enrolling, but people will be able to enroll at a faster pace, the experience will be improved as they go forward, and people will be able to enroll by the December 15 time frame.”
Two members of the National Guard were wounded on Thursday when a subordinate opened fire at a Navy facility in Tennessee. The gunman, a National Guard recruiter, was being relieved of his duties when he retrieved a weapon from his car. Millington Police Chief Rita Stanback announced the shooting.
Rita Stanback: “At about 12:33, we responded to a 911 call at the Army National Guard unit over here in regards to shots fired. Officers arrived on the scene. We had two individuals that had been injured. We had one suspect who is in custody at this time.”
A 13-year-old boy has been shot dead in California after police mistook the pellet gun he was carrying for an assault rifle. Andy Lopez was bringing the plastic replica weapon to a friend’s house when he was spotted by police. Believing the pellet gun was real, Lopez was shot dead within 10 seconds. The two officers have been placed on leave.
A coalition of more than 125 groups led by the American Civil Liberties Union is seeking a Justice Department probe of the New York City Police Department’s spying on Muslim communities. The NYPD’s “Demographics Unit,” as it was known until 2010, has secretly infiltrated Muslim student groups, sent informants into mosques, eavesdropped on conversations in restaurants, barber shops and gyms, and built a vast database of information. The program was established with help from the CIA, which is barred from domestic spying. In a letter, the coalition says: “The NYPD’s biased policing practices hurt not only Muslims, but all communities who rightfully expect that law enforcement will serve and protect America’s diverse population equally, without discrimination.”
Two African-American customers have accused the high-end New York department store Barneys of racial profiling after they were detained for making expensive purchases. Trayon Christian, 19, was arrested moments after buying a $350 belt. Despite showing his ID and debit card to undercover officers, Christian was told the purchase was suspicious because he could not afford to make it. Christian has filed a lawsuit against Barneys. Another African-American shopper has since come forward to say she endured a similar experience earlier this year. The National Action Network has vowed to picket Barneys unless the alleged racial profiling stops.
Two people were arrested at the City College of New York on Thursday in a protest against the closing of a hub for student activism. The Guillermo Morales/Assata Shakur Student and Community Center was abruptly shut down last weekend after school officials said they needed the space to expand the campus career services office. Student activists say they believe the center was targeted in retaliation for the recent protests against the hiring of former CIA director and military general David Petraeus to teach a course. The chair of the Morales-Shakur Center, Shepard McDaniel, said student activists are being silenced.
Shepard McDaniel: “This is a lot bigger than just the administration here at City College. We know this is coming from the federal government, just in terms of their whole movement, particularly with the Petraeus demonstrations that are going on in this campus, too. And organizing for those took place in that center. So it’s been a target, and at this point that is really trying to silence, you know, student rights in terms of First Amendment, in terms of being able to organize against dissent and so forth.”
Five Catholic Worker activists have been acquitted for blocking the gate of a New York base where U.S. drones are operated remotely earlier this year. The protesters held signs condemning the killings of children and other civilians as they stood in front of the entrance to Hancock Field Air National Guard Base near Syracuse. Calling the drone strikes illegal, the activists had argued in court their intent was to uphold the law, not break it.
The former head of the National Security Agency has been subjected to some unwanted eavesdropping of his own. Michael Hayden was riding a train from New York to Washington, D.C., on Thursday giving an off-the-record interview as an anonymous former official. Hayden did not realize he was sitting close to former MoveOn.org director Tom Matzzie, who proceeded to live tweet his account of Hayden’s phone call. Mattzie says Hayden’s comments included harsh criticism of the Obama administration, as well as bragging about the CIA’s rendition program under President George W. Bush.