Expanded FBI Access to E-mail and Web Records Raises Fears

WASHINGTON — Invasion of privacy in the Internet age. Expanding the reach of law enforcement to snoop on e-mail traffic or on Web surfing. Those are among the criticisms being aimed at the FBI as it tries to update a key surveillance law.

With its proposed amendment, is the Obama administration merely clarifying a statute or expanding it? Only time and a suddenly on guard Congress will tell.

Federal law requires communications providers to produce records in counterintelligence investigations to the FBI, which doesn’t need a judge’s approval and court order to get them.

They can be obtained merely with the signature of a special agent in charge of any FBI field office and there is no need even for a suspicion of wrongdoing, merely that the records would be relevant in a counterintelligence or counterterrorism investigation. The person whose records the government wants doesn’t even need to be a suspect.

The bureau’s use of these so-called national security letters to gather information has a checkered history.

The bureau engaged in widespread and serious misuse of its authority to issue the letters, illegally collecting data from Americans and foreigners, the Justice Department’s inspector general concluded in 2007. The bureau issued 192,499 national security letter requests from 2003 to 2006.

Read more here.

Memo outlines backdoor ‘amnesty’ plan

With Congress gridlocked on an immigration bill, the Obama administration is considering using a back door to stop deporting many illegal immigrants – what a draft government memo said could be “a non-legislative version of amnesty.”

The memo, addressed to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Director Alejandro Mayorkas and written by four agency staffers, lists tools it says the administration has to “reduce the threat of removal” for many illegal immigrants who have run afoul of immigration authorities.

“In the absence of comprehensive immigration reform, USCIS can extend benefits and/or protections to many individuals and groups by issuing new guidance and regulations, exercising discretion with regard to parole-in-place, deferred action and the issuance of Notices to Appear,” the staffers wrote in the memo, which was obtained by Sen. Charles E. Grassley, Iowa Republican.

The memo suggests that in-depth discussions have occurred on how to keep many illegal immigrants in the country, which would be at least a temporary alternative to the proposals Democrats in Congress have made to legalize illegal immigrants.

Read more here.

Obama calls black people ‘a mongrel people’

Barry’s turn on “The View” daytime show evinced some interesting comments from the president, including his anthropological observation that African Americans were “a mongrel people.

Sam Youngman writing in The Hill:

When asked about his background, which includes a black father and white mother, Obama said of African-Americans: “We are sort of a mongrel people.”

“I mean we’re all kinds of mixed up,” Obama said. “That’s actually true of white people as well, but we just know more about it.”

What did the president mean? Mr. Youngman covers for Obama’s little gaffe by explaining what he really was trying to say:

The president’s remarks were directed at the roots of all Americans. The definition of mongrel as an adjective is defined as “of mixed breed, nature, or origin,” according to dictionary.com.

Obama did not appear to be making an inflammatory remark with his statement and the audience appeared to receive it in the light-hearted manner that often accompanies interviews on morning talk shows.

Well, gee Sam. Thanks for that convoluted, twisted, forced explanation as well as your interpretation of audience reaction:

The president was referring to the fact that there are very few “pure” members of the African race in America. Nearly 300 years of mixing black and white, largely as a result of the “freedom of the slave quarters” granted the master of the plantation – a legacy of rape – most African Americans are of mixed race. His comment about white Americans as mongrels is problematic and more of a stretch.