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Friday, June 7, 2013

Support Arpaio against the courts

Arizona sheriff Joe Arpaio, the self-proclaimed 'America's Toughest Sheriff,' who led the way for local law enforcement across the country to take up immigration enforcement, is now pulling back on his crackdown.
Other law enforcement officials who have followed Arpaio's lead are also expected to eventually back away from doubling as immigration agents, traditionally considered a federal responsibility.
Arpaio, the controversial sheriff of Maricopa County, which includes metropolitan Phoenix, has temporarily suspended all his immigration efforts after a federal judge concluded two weeks ago that the sheriff's office had racially profiled Latinos in its patrols, Arpaio spokesman Brandon Jones said.
Arpaio has for years created national headlines for his notorious criticism over Washington's handling of illegal immigration.
His critics, including the federal government, are gaining ground in their fight to get the sheriff out of immigration enforcement. Even before the ruling, Washington had stripped Arpaio's office of its approved federal immigration arrest powers and started to phase out the program across the country amid complaints that it led to abuses by local officers.
The recent ruling against Arpaio is expected to impact state immigration laws in Arizona, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina, where local officers question people's immigration status in certain instances.

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Court Gives NSA GreenLight

In the storm that blew up Thursday over the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court authorizing a subpoena of telecom data from Verizon, the resulting alliances made for some strange bedfellows with ideologies clashing, at times, with party labels.
Libertarian favorite Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., stood with liberal Democratic Sens. Jeff Merkley of Oregon and Jon Tester of Montana in criticizing the court-approved gathering of the telecom data. “Can the FBI or the NSA really claim that they need data scooped up on tens of millions of Americans?” Merkley asked.
Meanwhile, Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina stood with Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California in defending the collection of telecom data.“This program has strong restrictions on it,” Feinstein -- who is chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee -- assured NBC’s Andrea Mitchell. “The data are just phone numbers and trunk lines; there's no content. It is put behind a wall. The only way it can be used is if there is strict scrutiny -- reasonable, articulable knowledge that this can connect to a terrorist attack, either under way or under planning or some conspiracy.”
But Paul portrayed the collection of telephone data as “an astounding assault on the Constitution. After revelations that the Internal Revenue Service targeted political dissidents and the Justice Department seized reporters' phone records, it would appear that this Administration has now sunk to a new low.”
Paul -- a potential contender for the Republican presidential nomination in 2016 -- noted that he’d offered an amendment last year that would have attached Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. But it was defeated -- and in fact got only 12 votes.
That vote revealed the way terrorism can alter the political lineup; only two other GOP senators supported Paul on his amendment: Mike Lee of Utah and Dean Heller of Nevada. The majority of the support came from Democrats -- nine lawmakers, including Merkley and Tester -- voted for Paul’s amendment.
NBC's Pete Williams reports on the secret collection of phone records and why this practice was renewed. Williams also explains why the White House hasn't officially confirmed or denied this report.
On terrorism policies, Paul appears to be a minority within his own party.
On issues like abortion, gun control or “Obamacare,” Democrats Merkley and Feinstein have voted the same -- and on the opposite side from Paul. But on the collection of telephone data the Democrats clash.
Terrorism policies have a way of the jarring the usual left-versus-right categories: instead, it’s libertarian mistrust of executive power (Merkley and Paul) versus a willingness to allow extraordinary steps to defeat and deter terrorists (Graham and Feinstein).
This extends to the issue of using drones overseas against terrorist suspects. Referring to conservative Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, Democrat Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota noted in April that “You know we’re in strange territory when Sen. Cruz and 

NSA and Eric Holder under Obama's orders to track Verizon phones

New controversy facing the Obama administration: London Guardian reports that NSA has collected Verizon phone records… Questions we have about the story… Is the support for immigration waning or not? New NBC/WSJ poll numbers show a slight majority (52%) favoring a pathway to citizenship… Also from NBC/WSJ poll: Health care law’s unpopularity hits new highs… And Obama heads to North Carolina, to deliver remarks on the economy and education at 2:55 pm ET. 
*** A new controversy facing the Obama administration: The big political story that’s driving the day in Washington comes courtesy of the London Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald. “The National Security Agency is currently collecting the telephone records of millions of US customers of Verizon, one of America's largest telecoms providers, under a top secret court order issued in April. The order, a copy of which has been obtained by the Guardian, requires Verizon on an ‘ongoing, daily basis’ to give the NSA information on all telephone calls in its systems, both within the US and between the US and other countries.” While not specifically confirming any aspects of the Guardian story, a senior Obama administration defended the practice. This official maintains the following: 1) Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court orders (what this appears to be) are classified; 2) the government isn’t listening in on calls -- rather, it’s acquiring data like telephone numbers and lengths of calls; and 3) there’s a “robust legal regime" governing these activities, which includes Congress and the courts. Make no mistake: This will only further the political debate between civil libertarians and the national-security community.
Sen. Lindsey Graham addresses Attorney General Eric Holder Thursday over a recent report that the NSA is collecting people's Verizon phone numbers.

*** Questions we have: It’s important to note that we don’t have the full story here, but we have plenty of questions. Was Verizon the only carrier issued this order? (Highly unlikely.) Was the motivation behind collecting these telephone records a current national-security threat? Or was it something like building a database -- to be able to pursue future threats? NBC counter-terrorism expert Michael Leiter, on “TODAY”, seemed to hint that this could be more about maintaining a database than anything else. But the fact is, the Obama administration has been silent on this issue for years, which brings up this question: Is this consistent with what Candidate Obama promised in 2007 and 2008? One caveat worth pointing out, however: The 2005-2006 NSA controversy surrounding the Bush administration involved wiretapping, not phone records.  
Saul Loeb / AFP - Getty Images
President Barack Obama walks down the West Wing Colonnade to announce that current UN Ambassador Susan Rice will replace outgoing National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, in the Rose Garden of the White House, June 5, 2013.
*** Is support for immigration waning or not? Our new NBC/WSJ poll shows a slight majority -- 52% -- saying they favor a proposed pathway to allow undocumented immigrants to become U.S. citizens. This is a drop from our April poll, when 64% said they supported this pathway. But a note of caution: The wording on our question changed. In April, we asked: “There is a proposal to create a pathway to citizenship that would allow foreigners who have jobs but are staying illegally in the United States the opportunity to eventually become legal American citizens.” In our new poll, we excluded the words “who have jobs.” Our pollsters believe it’s significant that a majority still backs the pathway even after the language change. More importantly, when told in the current poll that the proposed pathway to citizenship includes requirements to pay fines, back taxes and pass a background security check, the percentage favoring it jumps up to 65%, including 58% of Republicans.  
*** Upset or happy if Congress doesn’t pass a bill? But if you’re a supporter of the immigration reform legislation, you might be a little troubled by this finding: Respondents are divided if they want Congress to pass a bill this year. Per the poll, 47% say they would be upset if Congress doesn't pass a bill, and that includes a majority of Democrats (54%). But an equal 47% say they wouldn't be upset if Congress doesn’t pass immigration legislation, and that includes a majority of Republicans (53%). (Strikingly, the partisan divisions have flipped since this question was last asked in 2006, when former President George W. Bush was supporting comprehensive immigration reform. Back then, more than six-in-10 Republicans said they would be upset if immigration reform didn't pass, and an almost equal percentage of Democrats -- who were out of power in the White House -- said they wouldn't be upset. Yet note that there’s not a whole lot of intensity to these current immigration numbers: 21% said they would be VERY UPSET if Congress doesn’t pass legislation, and 26% said they would be NOT AT ALL UPSET if that happens. But compare that to a gun question we also asked: 34% said they would be VERY UPSET if Congress doesn’t pass a background-check law, versus 31% who said NOT AT ALL UPSET. Bottom line: The immigration debate isn’t as highly charged as the gun debate.
*** Health care law’s unpopularity reaches new highs: Meanwhile, just months before President Barack Obama's signature health-care law fully goes into effect next year, it remains unpopular with the American public, according to the new NBC/WSJ poll, with 49 percent saying they believe the law is a bad idea. That’s the highest number recorded on this question since the poll began measuring it in 2009. Just 37% say the plan is a good idea. The poll also finds that 38 percent say they and their family will be worse off under the health-care law, which also is the highest percentage on this question that dates back to 2010. By comparison, 19% say they'll be better off, and 39% say the law won't make much of a difference. The poll, however, shows deep divisions by political party and health insurance status. By a 35%-to-11% margin, Democrats say they'll be better off under the health-care law. But Republicans say they'll be worse off, 67% to 4%. What's more, those who currently don't have health insurance have a more positive view of the health-care law than those who have insurance -- either through individual purchase or through their employer. Bottom line here: The Obama White House has a massive PR problem with health care. The biggest reason: Opponents of this law have been very vocal, while supporters have done very little to drum up support. The president doesn’t sell it that often, and many arms of the Democratic Party essentially avoid it. Politics abhors a vacuum, and opponents -- not supporters -- have filled the health-care vacuum.
*** Carolina in mind: Lastly, President Obama heads to Mooresville, NC, where he’ll deliver remarks on the economy and education at 2:55 pm ET. Per the White House, Obama “will travel to Mooresville Middle School in Mooresville, North Carolina, to deliver remarks and see first hand the school's cutting edge curriculum that maximizes the benefits of technology and digital learning.”  
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