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The Obama administration is reportedly preparing to charge NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden with leaking classified information. The FBI has begun questioning relatives and associates of Snowden, a former CIA employee who revealed he is behind a massive leak of documents outlining the National Security Agency’s surveillance practices. The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald has already published some of those documents and says there are more to come. Snowden’s whereabouts are unknown after he checked out of his Hong Kong hotel room on Monday. Meanwhile, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney defended the administration’s policies on surveillance.
Jay Carney: “We need to strike the appropriate balance between our national security interests and our interests in privacy. The fact that, upon coming into office, he (President Obama) assessed, and his team assessed, programs that existed and in some cases enhanced oversight, and he believes that with the oversight that exists and the implementation of the programs as they are implemented, that he — that the balance is appropriately struck, has been appropriately struck, but it is an absolutely appropriate topic for debate.”
A support movement for Edward Snowden is already taking off in the United States. New York activist Andrew Stepanian was among dozens who rallied in Manhattan on Monday.
Andrew Stepanian: “I think a lot of us are encouraging people today, wherever they are located in the United States, whatever city they’re in, to start their own rallies united behind the hashtag that says 'I stand with Edward Snowden.' And no matter how small or how large, encourage the people around you to celebrate Edward Snowden and what he did selflessly for us as Americans and to take the conversation out of the margins to prevent him from being demonized or maligned, whether it be in the media or in government, and have a conversation that said what he did was a public service.”
A petition on the White House website to pardon Edward Snowden has so far received more than 43,000 signatures.
A U.S. appeals court has dismissed a lawsuit against President Obama and the head of the National Security Agency over warrantless domestic surveillance of telephone calls and emails. The suit was initially filed in 2006 against the Bush administration. But in a statement Monday, the Center for Constitutional Rights noted: “Ironically, the dismissal comes just as a series of new stories about astonishingly broad domestic NSA surveillance have broken in the news.”
The ACLU and other groups have filed a motion with the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court asking it to make public its opinions on the section of the PATRIOT Act that authorizes the government to obtain “any tangible thing” related to a foreign intelligence or terrorism investigation. That section was the foundation for the court order exposed by The Guardian last week demanding Verizon hand over records on millions of customers.
Turkish police in riot gear have descended on a protest encampment in Istanbul’s Taksim Square, firing tear gas and rubber bullets and forcing many to flee into nearby Gezi Park. Today marks the 12th day of a rising protest movement against Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, who stands accused by the protesters of imposing religious and authoritarian rule. Today’s raid came a day after Erdogan’s deputy said the prime minister would meet with protesters.
Bülent Arinç: “The prime minister gave an appointment to representatives of some of the groups that have been organizing these protests. He will meet some of them on Wednesday upon their request, and he will meet other groups in the coming days.”
Iraq appears to be falling deeper into sectarian conflict as a wave of bombings and shootings killed more than 70 people Monday. Nearly 2,000 people have died since April amid rising tensions between Iraq’s Shiite-led government and Sunni militants.
Officials in Pakistan say at least six people are dead following an attack on a NATO supply convoy that was headed to Afghanistan. Vehicles carrying military equipment reportedly caught fire after coming under attack by unknown militants in Pakistan’s Khyber tribal region.
Bloomberg News reports the Pentagon is seeking to spend nearly $23 billion on cybersecurity over the next five years, including $4.65 billion in the upcoming fiscal year, an increase of 18 percent over the current year. The budget outline includes more than $9 billion for defense against cyber-attacks and nearly the same amount for “cyber-operations,” which include offensive capabilities. The increased spending could be a major boon for private military contractors. The news comes on the heels of Obama’s two-day meeting with President Xi Jinping of China during which the two discussed allegations of cyber-attacks on both sides. It also follows a Guardian exposé on how Obama ordered senior officials to draw up a list of potential overseas targets for U.S. cyber-attacks.
The Associated Press is reporting President Obama is leaning closer toward arming some Syrian rebels and could make a decision in the coming days. The report cites unnamed officials who said Obama is considering various options during White House meetings this week. Another, less likely scenario would see the U.S. enforce a no-fly zone over Syria.
The Obama administration is dropping its opposition to the unrestricted sale of emergency contraception, allowing one type of morning-after pill – Plan B One Step – to be sold on store shelves, just like any other over-the-counter medication. Reproductive justice advocates hailed the move as a landmark victory that caps a more than decade-long battle for access. Amid a series of legal defeats for the Obama administration over the restrictions, a federal judge accused it of being “unreasonable” and blocking access for political reasons. Drug regulators actually approved over-the-counter sales of emergency contraception back in 2011, but Obama’s health and human services secretary, Kathleen Sebelius, overruled that decision in an unprecedented move, forcing those under 17 to obtain a prescription. Despite reversing its stance on Plan B One Step, the administration says it will continue to oppose unrestricted sales of the two-pill version, in part, it says, because it’s concerned adolescents might not understand how to take the two pills.
The U.S. Senate has passed a version of the farm bill that includes cuts to the food stamp program and an expansion of crop insurance viewed as a boon for big agribusiness. The bill passed with an amendment by Republican Senator David Vitter to ban people convicted of a violent crime from ever obtaining food stamps. Overall, it cuts the program by about $400 million a year. A version of the bill approved by a House committee last month would cut food stamps by about five times that amount.
A U.S. appeals court has rejected a bid by organic farmers to prevent the agribusiness giant Monsanto from suing them over its patented seeds. The court ruled Monday the lawsuit was unnecessary because Monsanto has already promised that it will not take legal action if a farmer’s crops are inadvertently contaminated with its genetically modified seeds. Monsanto has pursued more than 800 patent cases against farmers for allegedly using its seeds without paying. A lawyer with one of the plaintiff groups told Reuters: “It is a very bizarre ruling that relies on a paragraph on [Monsanto’s] website. It is a very real threat to American farmers,” he said.
The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by two U.S. citizens seeking to sue former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld after they were allegedly tortured at a U.S. military prison in Iraq. Donald Vance and Nathan Ertel were detained in 2006 after collaborating with an FBI investigation into gunrunning by their employer, the Iraqi-owned firm Shield Group Security. They said they were subjected to extreme sleep deprivation, cold temperatures and prolonged interrogation before being released without ever being charged with a crime. Vance and Ertel said Rumsfeld was responsible for their mistreatment because he personally approved torture techniques used by U.S. forces in Iraq. But Monday’s decision maintains a lower court ruling that Rumsfeld is not liable.
In North Carolina, so-called “Moral Monday” protests against right-wing extremism in the state Legislature continued at the state’s General Assembly. Nearly 100 people were arrested, including Charlotte Observer faith reporter Tim Funk, who was there covering the action with a press ID around his neck. Thousands have turned out to protest cuts to social programs and attempts to scale back voting rights.
Monday marked 50 years since President John F. Kennedy signed the landmark Equal Pay Act to prevent wage discrimination against women. In a speech commemorating the law, President Obama acknowledged the gender wage gap still endures half a decade later.
President Obama: “The day that the bill was signed into law, women earned 59 cents for every dollar a man earned, on average. Today, it’s about 77 cents. So it was 59, now it’s 77 cents. It’s even less, by the way, if you’re an African American or a Latina. Over the course of her career, a working woman with a college degree will earn, on average, hundreds of thousands of dollars less than a man who does the same work. Now that’s wrong.”
In his remarks Monday, Obama also made a brief reference to LGBT rights in the workplace, saying his agenda included building an economy that “gives every American the chance to get ahead … no matter … who you love.” But some noted Obama has so far refused to heed calls to sign an executive order banning federal contractors from discriminating against workers on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Last week, first lady Michelle Obama was confronted over her husband’s failure to take such action by a protester who interrupted her speech at a private fundraiser in Washington. Michelle Obama responded angrily and threatened to leave.
Michelle Obama: “And I don’t care what you believe in. We don’t — wait, wait, wait. One of the things I — one of the things that I don’t do well is this. … I can take the mic, but I’m leaving. So, you all decide.”
Crowd: “No, no!”
Ellen Sturtz: “I need your husband to sign…”
Unidentified Woman: “No, please don’t leave.”
The protest action divided some progressives. Some criticized the protester, Ellen Sturtz, saying there were racial overtones when she said she was “taken aback” that Michelle Obama “came right down in my face,” in response to the interruption. Anthea Butler, a professor of religious studies at the University of Pennsylvania, said: “Media coverage also played along, portraying the First Lady as the aggressor rather than Sturtz. … Such a characterization read instantly to many as an exhibition of white privilege. Similar statements of any black person 'stepping out of their place' in the 19th and 20th centuries resulted in beatings and lynchings.”
Former South African president and anti-apartheid leader Nelson Mandela is remaining in the hospital for a fourth day with a recurring lung infection. A spokesperson for President Jacob Zuma said Monday Mandela remains in serious but stable condition.
Mac Maharaj: “Former President Nelson Mandela remains in hospital, and his condition is unchanged. He was admitted to hospital in the early hours of Saturday morning, the 8th of June, with a lung infection, and President Zuma would like to reiterate his call to South Africa to pray for Madiba and his family in these difficult times that they are going through.”