Thursday, April 3, 2014

Waxman Statement on Cleanup of Abandoned Uranium Mines on the Navajo Nation

Rep. Waxman statement on settlement for cleanup of abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation

Shared unedited here:

WASHINGTON, DC Today Ranking Member Waxman released the following statement in response to the settlement announcement by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Justice to secure $1 billion to cleanup abandoned uranium mines on the Navajo Nation:
“The pervasive uranium contamination on the Navajo Nation is an American tragedy.  Over the last five years, the federal government has started to address this shameful legacy.  The $1 billion now available for cleaning up abandoned uranium mines is a major step forward that will dramatically accelerate these efforts.  This is a huge win for public health and the environment.”
In October 2007, Rep. Waxman held an Oversight and Government Reform hearing to examine the adverse health and environmental impacts affecting the Navajo people of decades of uranium mining and milling around the reservation.  Following that hearing, at Rep. Waxman’s request, five federal agencies developed and implemented a five-year plan to begin addressing the uranium contamination.  The agencies, in cooperation with the Navajo Nation, are currently developing a new five-year plan to continue the environmental remediation and public health efforts.

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Tuesday, March 25, 2014

FACT SHEET: U.S. Counter Nuclear Smuggling Activities

 In a press release from the White House, the government presents: "U.S. Counter Nuclear Smuggling Activities." (unedited here)

The United States is committed to ensuring it is fully prepared to manage a domestic radiological or nuclear smuggling incident regardless of whether material originates within the United States or overseas.

 

We maintain a Counter Nuclear Smuggling (CNS) Team that has the personnel, equipment, capabilities, and legal authorities to respond quickly and effectively to nuclear smuggling incidents.  The CNS Team achieves its objectives through detection and operational activities.  Many federal departments and agencies are engaged in this effort,  including the Department of Justice, through the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI); the intelligence community; Department of Homeland Security; Department of Energy; Department of Defense; Department of State; and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.  These federal entities also work closely with state, local, and tribal governments as well as with the private sector, other countries, and international organizations.  Each Department and Agency possesses both unique and complementary capabilities and legal authorities to respond to a radiological or nuclear smuggling incident.

 

The FBI has taken recent steps to strengthen U.S. capacities to ensure a strong law enforcement response and coordinated criminal investigation of nuclear smuggling threats and incidents within the United States.  As part of this mission, the FBI has established the Radiological Nuclear Search Operations (RNSO) framework for all domestic incidents, coordinating the law enforcement and investigative response of applicable U.S. Government investigative assets, as well as other federal, state, local, and tribal agencies as required.  If a threat is deemed credible, the FBI’s newly-established Radiological Nuclear Strategic Group is capable of coordinating the identification and deployment of specialized interagency elements used to support the RNSO in locating, identifying, and interdicting the threat. 

 

To assist in an international nuclear smuggling incident, the FBI utilizes its international network of Legal Attachés and WMD Assistant Legal Attachés to work with foreign counterparts, as well as international organizations such as INTERPOL, to develop lead information on suspected smuggling networks.  At the request of the foreign government, the FBI is also capable of deploying investigative and laboratory assets to assist in the response to an international nuclear smuggling incident.

 

The United States encourages international partners to strengthen capabilities to investigate smuggling networks, interdict and remove trafficked material from the black market, and arrest perpetrators.  At the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, 19 countries signed a Statement of Activity and Cooperation to Counter Nuclear Smuggling (CNS), and others announced steps to strengthen counter nuclear smuggling capacities.  An updated CNS statement was signed in 2014 at the Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, and many countries pledged to continue the discussion on this important topic and encouraged others to join. 

 

In February 2014, the United States and the Institute for Transuranium Elements of the European Commission Joint Research Center held a Countering Nuclear and Radiological Smuggling Workshop for Nuclear Security Summit states.  Thirty-eight governments and observing international organizations attended the workshop, which featured a series of hands-on demonstrations and exercises in the areas of nuclear material detection, law enforcement investigations, and nuclear forensics – all of which are integral to effectively counter transnational nuclear smuggling networks.

 

The United States actively works with international partners, including INTERPOL and the International Atomic Energy Agency, to improve counter nuclear smuggling capacity worldwide.  Since 2011, the United States has worked with 8 countries to strengthen national counter nuclear smuggling capabilities.  The Department of State negotiates politically binding joint action plans with key countries to strengthen capabilities to prevent, detect, and respond to incidents of nuclear smuggling.  The Department of Energy supports these initiatives by providing detection systems and training to these and other countries.  The Department of Defense also supports these initiatives by securing vulnerable nuclear material at sensitive sites by providing equipment and training.

 

Through the FBI and DOE, the United States supports the INTERPOL CBRNE Sub-Directorate.  In support of the 2012 Summit, INTERPOL initiated Operation Fail Safe, an information-sharing tool that supports the international law enforcement community in tracking the transnational movement of individuals involved in the illicit trafficking of radioactive or nuclear materials.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Obama statement on Ukraine, Russia and Crimea

This is the body of a press release from the White House, said to have occurred in the James S. Brady Press Briefing Room.  Below that is a statement from U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-3.

(Below the DeLauro release are related documents)

 
Release, unedited here: 

10:45 A.M. EDT


     THE PRESIDENT:  Good morning, everybody.  In recent months, as the citizens of Ukraine have made their voices heard, we have been guided by a fundamental principle -- the future of Ukraine must be decided by the people of Ukraine.  That means Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected, and international law must be upheld.

 And so, Russia’s decision to send troops into Crimea has rightly drawn global condemnation.  From the start, the United States has mobilized the international community in support of Ukraine to isolate Russia for its actions and to reassure our allies and partners.  We saw this international unity again over the weekend, when Russia stood alone in the U.N. Security Council defending its actions in Crimea.  And as I told President Putin yesterday, the referendum in Crimea was a clear violation of Ukrainian constitutions and international law, and it will not be recognized by the international community.
     Today, I’m announcing a series of measures that will continue to increase the cost on Russia and on those responsible for what is happening in Ukraine.  First, as authorized by the executive order I signed two weeks ago, we are imposing sanctions on specific individuals responsible for undermining the sovereignty, territorial integrity and government of Ukraine.  We’re making it clear that there are consequences for their actions.
     Second, I have signed a new executive order that expands the scope of our sanctions.  As an initial step, I’m authorizing sanctions on Russian officials -- entities operating in the arms sector in Russia and individuals who provide material support to senior officials of the Russian government.  And if Russia continues to interfere in Ukraine, we stand ready to impose further sanctions.
     Third, we’re continuing our close consultations with our European partners, who today in Brussels moved ahead with their own sanctions against Russia.  Tonight, Vice President Biden departs for Europe, where he will meet with the leaders of our NATO allies -- Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.  And I’ll be traveling to Europe next week.  Our message will be clear.  As NATO allies, we have a solemn commitment to our collective defense, and we will uphold this commitment.
     Fourth, we’ll continue to make clear to Russia that further provocations will achieve nothing except to further isolate Russia and diminish its place in the world.  The international community will continue to stand together to oppose any violations of Ukrainian sovereignty and territorial integrity, and continued Russian military intervention in Ukraine will only deepen Russia’s diplomatic isolation and exact a greater toll on the Russian economy.

     Going forward, we can calibrate our response based on whether Russia chooses to escalate or to de-escalate the situation.  Now, I believe there’s still a path to resolve this situation diplomatically in a way that addresses the interest of both Russia and Ukraine.  That includes Russia pulling its forces in Crimea back to their bases, supporting the deployment of additional international monitors in Ukraine, and engaging in dialogue with the Ukrainian government, which has indicated its openness to pursuing constitutional reform as they move forward towards elections this spring.  

     But throughout this process, we’re going to stand firm in our unwavering support for Ukraine.  As I told Prime Minister Yatsenyuk last week, the United States stands with the people of Ukraine and their right to determine their own destiny.  We’re going to keep working with Congress and our international partners to offer Ukraine the economic support that it needs to weather this crisis and to improve the daily lives of the Ukrainian people.  

     And as we go forward, we’ll continue to look at the range of ways we can help our Ukrainian friends achieve their universal rights and the security, prosperity and dignity that they deserve.  Thanks very much.  And Jay, I think, will be available for questions.  Thank you.
END                     10:49 A.M. EDT


 DeLauro release on "yesterday's referendum in Crimea and President Obama's announcement of sanctions. The United States--and many other nations--have called this referendum, on whether to separate from Ukraine and join the Russian Federation, illegal."

Release:

"The illegal referendum for Crimean separation represents an unwarranted further escalation of the crisis in Ukraine by Russia, and there must be a clear response from the United States, the European Union and the international community.  I applaud the Administration for the sanctions it announced today<http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/03/17/statement-president-ukraine> and for its efforts to support the people of Ukraine while applying pressure on Russia to change its course.  I was pleased to support legislation supporting the democratic aspirations of the people of Ukraine, providing assistance to Ukraine and condemning the violation of Ukrainian sovereignty by Russia's military forces."

DeLauro has cast multiple votes in support of the Ukrainian people this year, and co-sponsored H.Res. 447, which supports the democratic and European aspirations of the people of Ukraine, and their right to choose their own future free of intimidation and fear. She also met recently with members of Connecticut's Ukrainian community in New Haven.


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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Statement of G-7 Leaders on Ukraine

In a press release from the White House, Office of the Press Secretary, on Ukraine:

(unedited here)
 

 

Statement of G-7 Leaders on Ukraine


We, the leaders of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States, the President of the European Council and the President of the European Commission, call on the Russian Federation to cease all efforts to change the status of Crimea contrary to Ukrainian law and in violation of international law.  We call on the Russian Federation to immediately halt actions supporting a referendum on the territory of Crimea regarding its status, in direct violation of the Constitution of Ukraine.

Any such referendum would have no legal effect.  Given the lack of adequate preparation and the intimidating presence of Russian troops, it would also be a deeply flawed process which would have no moral force.  For all these reasons, we would not recognize the outcome.

Russian annexation of Crimea would be a clear violation of the United Nations Charter; Russia’s commitments under the Helsinki Final Act; its obligations to Ukraine under its 1997 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Partnership; the Russia-Ukraine 1997 basing agreement; and its commitments in the Budapest Memorandum of 1994.  In addition to its impact on the unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity of Ukraine, the annexation of Crimea could have grave implications for the legal order that protects the unity and sovereignty of all states.  Should the Russian Federation take such a step, we will take further action, individually and collectively.

We call on the Russian Federation to de-escalate the conflict in Crimea and other parts of Ukraine immediately, withdraw its forces back to their pre-crisis numbers and garrisons, begin direct discussions with the Government of Ukraine, and avail itself of international mediation and observation offers to address any legitimate concerns it may have.  We, the leaders of the G-7, urge Russia to join us in working together through diplomatic processes to resolve the current crisis and support progress for a sovereign independent, inclusive and united Ukraine.  We also remind the Russian Federation of our decision to suspend participation in any activities related to preparation of a G-8 Sochi meeting  until it changes course and the environment comes back to where the G-8 is able to have a meaningful discussion.

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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Governor Malloy's really busy day (and a visit with President Obama too)

In a release from the governor's office, his staff outlined his busy day Wednesday, the same day President Obama will visit the state.

Here is what the governor has on his agenda, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. (And a little birdie tells us his day is not over then as there is expected to be a stop in Bridgeport after the Milford event.)



Release:


On Wednesday morning, Governor Dannel P. Malloy will keynote the Connecticut Business and Industry Association’s “2014 Connecticut Business Day,” where he will speak with the state’s business leaders about his agenda for Connecticut’s future.
 
Following that, Governor Malloy will speak at the Connecticut Association of Boards of Education’s “Day on the Hill,” where he will speak about his efforts to ensure that the state’s children receive a high quality education, including his plan to achieve universal access to pre-kindergarten and make college more affordable.
 
In the afternoon, Governor Malloy will hold an event with President Barack Obama in New Britain on the minimum wage and the importance of giving hardworking Americans the raise they deserve.  They will be joined by Governor Deval L. Patrick of Massachusetts, Governor Lincoln D. Chafee of Rhode Island and Governor Peter E. Shumlin of Vermont.
 
In the evening, Governor Malloy and Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman will hold a community forum in Milford, where they will speak with members of the public about their agenda for Connecticut’s future.  This will be the second event in this year’s series of gubernatorial community forums.

Monday, February 10, 2014

State Division of Criminal Justice legislative recommendations


The state Division of Criminal Justice will submit recommendations for legislation to the committee indicated for consideration in the 2014 Regular Session of the General Assembly, according to a release.
 
View the recommendations here.
 
 

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Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Blumenthal introduces 'Personal Data Protection and Breach Accountability Act'

In a release,  U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. and Ed Markey, D-Mass., said that "ahead of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on a recent spate of data breaches," they introduced the Personal Data Protection and Breach Accountability Act, "a bill that would help protect consumers’ personal and financial information from hackers by taking a multi-pronged approach to combating the risks associated with data breaches. Already, a little more than a month into the new year, there have been at least 30 reported data breaches that have left the personal and financial information of over 99,000 consumers at risk."  

Blumenthal said, also in the release, “This bill will give consumers much stronger, industry-wide protections against massive thefts of private financial information by hackers and digital thieves. Stiffer enforcement with stringent penalties are vital to assure that retailers use state of the art safeguards. ” 

Read the proposed act here:

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Monday, February 3, 2014

Statement by President Obama and First Lady on the Passing of Joan Mondale

 
The White House on Monday released this statement by President Barack Obama, with First Lady Michelle Obama, on the death of Joan Mondale.

The statement is shared unedited here:
 

"Michelle and I send our deepest condolences to former Vice President Walter Mondale and his family on the passing of Joan Adams Mondale.  America first came to know Joan through her husband; she was his devoted partner in public service, from Minnesota to Washington.  A lifelong patron of the arts, Joan filled the Vice Presidential mansion with works by dozens of artists, including many unknowns, and later did the same at the U.S. embassy in Japan during her husband’s tenure as ambassador.  Through her contributions to the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities and the Kennedy Center, she passionately advocated for the role of art in the life of our nation and the promotion of understanding worldwide.  Our thoughts and prayers are with Vice President Mondale and his family today as we remember with gratitude “Joan of Art” and her service to our nation."

Editor's note: All information in this post was contributed. Click one of the buttons below to share it.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Connecticut Conference of Municipalities 2014 state legislative priorities

The Connecticut Conference of Municipalities Monday released its " 2014 state legislative priorities of Connecticut municipalities."

“CCM’s state legislative priorities, which were developed, vetted, and approved by member town and cities leaders this fall and early winter, are focused around the notion that  healthy towns, cities and regions are key to Connecticut’s recovery, and that can be best accomplished by supporting state aid to hometowns; assisting struggling core communities; fostering regional collaboration; reforming state mandates, and enhancing safety within communities,” Ron Thomas, Director of Public Policy and Advocacy for CCM siad, in a statement..

See below for the CCM document detailing its priorities:

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Friday, January 17, 2014

Remarks of President Barack Obama on surveillance

This is a release from the White House, shared here unedited:
 
 

"Results of our Signals Intelligence Review"

January 17, 2014

Washington, D.C.

 

As Prepared for Delivery –

 

At the dawn of our Republic, a small, secret surveillance committee borne out of the “The Sons of Liberty” was established in Boston. The group’s members included Paul Revere, and at night they would patrol the streets, reporting back any signs that the British were preparing raids against America’s early Patriots.

 

Throughout American history, intelligence has helped secure our country and our freedoms. In the Civil War, Union balloon reconnaissance tracked the size of Confederate armies by counting the number of camp fires. In World War II, code-breaking gave us insight into Japanese war plans, and when Patton marched across Europe, intercepted communications helped save the lives of his troops. After the war, the rise of the Iron Curtain and nuclear weapons only increased the need for sustained intelligence-gathering. And so, in the early days of the Cold War, President Truman created the National Security Agency to give us insight into the Soviet bloc, and provide our leaders with information they needed to confront aggression and avert catastrophe.

 

Throughout this evolution, we benefited from both our Constitution and traditions of limited government. U.S. intelligence agencies were anchored in our system of checks and balances – with oversight from elected leaders, and protections for ordinary citizens. Meanwhile, totalitarian states like East Germany offered a cautionary tale of what could happen when vast, unchecked surveillance turned citizens into informers, and persecuted people for what they said in the privacy of their own homes.

 

In fact even the United States proved not to be immune to the abuse of surveillance. In the 1960s, government spied on civil rights leaders and critics of the Vietnam War. Partly in response to these revelations, additional laws were established in the 1970s to ensure that our intelligence capabilities could not be misused against our citizens. In the long, twilight struggle against Communism, we had been reminded that the very liberties that we sought to preserve could not be sacrificed at the altar of national security.

 

If the fall of the Soviet Union left America without a competing superpower, emerging threats from terrorist groups, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction placed new – and, in some ways more complicated – demands on our intelligence agencies. Globalization and the Internet made these threats more acute, as technology erased borders and empowered individuals to project great violence, as well as great good. Moreover, these new threats raised new legal and policy questions. For while few doubted the legitimacy of spying on hostile states, our framework of laws was not fully adapted to prevent terrorist attacks by individuals acting on their own, or acting in small, ideologically driven groups rather than on behalf of a foreign power. 

 

The horror of September 11th brought these issues to the fore. Across the political spectrum, Americans recognized that we had to adapt to a world in which a bomb could be built in a basement, and our electric grid could be shut down by operators an ocean away. We were shaken by the signs we had missed leading up to the attacks – how the hijackers had made phone calls to known extremists, and travelled to suspicious places. So we demanded that our intelligence community improve its capabilities, and that law enforcement change practices to focus more on preventing attacks before they happen than prosecuting terrorists after an attack. 

 

It is hard to overstate the transformation America’s intelligence community had to go through after 9/11. Our agencies suddenly needed to do far more than the traditional mission of monitoring hostile powers and gathering information for policymakers – instead, they were asked to identify and target plotters in some of the most remote parts of the world, and to anticipate the actions of networks that, by their very nature, cannot be easily penetrated with spies or informants.

 

And it is a testimony to the hard work and dedication of the men and women in our intelligence community that over the past decade, we made enormous strides in fulfilling this mission. Today, new capabilities allow intelligence agencies to track who a terrorist is in contact with, and follow the trail of his travel or funding. New laws allow information to be collected and shared more quickly between federal agencies, and state and local law enforcement. Relationships with foreign intelligence services have expanded, and our capacity to repel cyber-attacks has been strengthened. Taken together, these efforts have prevented multiple attacks and saved innocent lives – not just here in the United States, but around the globe as well.

 

And yet, in our rush to respond to very real and novel threats, the risks of government overreach – the possibility that we lose some of our core liberties in pursuit of security – became more pronounced. We saw, in the immediate aftermath of 9/11, our government engaged in enhanced interrogation techniques that contradicted our values. As a Senator, I was critical of several practices, such as warrantless wiretaps. And all too often new authorities were instituted without adequate public debate.

 

Through a combination of action by the courts, increased congressional oversight, and adjustments by the previous Administration, some of the worst excesses that emerged after 9/11 were curbed by the time I took office. But a variety of factors have continued to complicate America’s efforts to both defend our nation and uphold our civil liberties.

 

First, the same technological advances that allow U.S. intelligence agencies to pin-point an al Qaeda cell in Yemen or an email between two terrorists in the Sahel, also mean that many routine communications around the world are within our reach. At a time when more and more of our lives are digital, that prospect is disquieting for all of us.

 

Second, the combination of increased digital information and powerful supercomputers offers intelligence agencies the possibility of sifting through massive amounts of bulk data to identify patterns or pursue leads that may thwart impending threats. But the government collection and storage of such bulk data also creates a potential for abuse.

 

Third, the legal safeguards that restrict surveillance against U.S. persons without a warrant do not apply to foreign persons overseas. This is not unique to America; few, if any, spy agencies around the world constrain their activities beyond their own borders. And the whole point of intelligence is to obtain information that is not publicly available. But America’s capabilities are unique. And the power of new technologies means that there are fewer and fewer technical constraints on what we can do. That places a special obligation on us to ask tough questions about what we should do.

 

Finally, intelligence agencies cannot function without secrecy, which makes their work less subject to public debate. Yet there is an inevitable bias not only within the intelligence community, but among all who are responsible for national security, to collect more information about the world, not less. So in the absence of institutional requirements for regular debate – and oversight that is public, as well as private – the danger of government overreach becomes more acute. This is particularly true when surveillance technology and our reliance on digital information is evolving much faster than our laws.

 

For all these reasons, I maintained a healthy skepticism toward our surveillance programs after I became President. I ordered that our programs be reviewed by my national security team and our lawyers, and in some cases I ordered changes in how we did business. We increased oversight and auditing, including new structures aimed at compliance. Improved rules were proposed by the government and approved by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. And we sought to keep Congress continually updated on these activities.

 

What I did not do is stop these programs wholesale – not only because I felt that they made us more secure; but also because nothing in that initial review, and nothing that I have learned since, indicated that our intelligence community has sought to violate the law or is cavalier about the civil liberties of their fellow citizens. 

 

To the contrary, in an extraordinarily difficult job, one in which actions are second-guessed, success is unreported, and failure can be catastrophic, the men and women of the intelligence community, including the NSA, consistently follow protocols designed to protect the privacy of ordinary people. They are not abusing authorities in order to listen to your private phone calls, or read your emails. When mistakes are made – which is inevitable in any large and complicated human enterprise – they correct those mistakes. Laboring in obscurity, often unable to discuss their work even with family and friends, they know that if another 9/11 or massive cyber-attack occurs, they will be asked, by Congress and the media, why they failed to connect the dots. What sustains those who work at NSA through all these pressures is the knowledge that their professionalism and dedication play a central role in the defense of our nation.

 

To say that our intelligence community follows the law, and is staffed by patriots, is not to suggest that I, or others in my Administration, felt complacent about the potential impact of these programs. Those of us who hold office in America have a responsibility to our Constitution, and while I was confident in the integrity of those in our intelligence community, it was clear to me in observing our intelligence operations on a regular basis that changes in our technological capabilities were raising new questions about the privacy safeguards currently in place. Moreover, after an extended review of our use of drones in the fight against terrorist networks, I believed a fresh examination of our surveillance programs was a necessary next step in our effort to get off the open ended war-footing that we have maintained since 9/11. For these reasons, I indicated in a speech at the National Defense University last May that we needed a more robust public discussion about the balance between security and liberty. What I did not know at the time is that within weeks of my speech, an avalanche of unauthorized disclosures would spark controversies at home and abroad that have continued to this day.

 

Given the fact of an open investigation, I’m not going to dwell on Mr. Snowden’s actions or motivations. I will say that our nation’s defense depends in part on the fidelity of those entrusted with our nation’s secrets. If any individual who objects to government policy can take it in their own hands to publicly disclose classified information, then we will never be able to keep our people safe, or conduct foreign policy. Moreover, the sensational way in which these disclosures have come out has often shed more heat than light, while revealing methods to our adversaries that could impact our operations in ways that we may not fully understand for years to come.

 

Regardless of how we got here, though, the task before us now is greater than simply repairing the damage done to our operations; or preventing more disclosures from taking place in the future. Instead, we have to make some important decisions about how to protect ourselves and sustain our leadership in the world, while upholding the civil liberties and privacy protections that our ideals – and our Constitution – require. We need to do so not only because it is right, but because the challenges posed by threats like terrorism, proliferation, and cyber-attacks are not going away any time soon, and for our intelligence community to be effective over the long haul, we must maintain the trust of the American people, and people around the world.

 

This effort will not be completed overnight, and given the pace of technological change, we shouldn’t expect this to be the last time America has this debate. But I want the American people to know that the work has begun. Over the last six months, I created an outside Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies to make recommendations for reform. I’ve consulted with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. I’ve listened to foreign partners, privacy advocates, and industry leaders. My Administration has spent countless hours considering how to approach intelligence in this era of diffuse threats and technological revolution. And before outlining specific changes that I have ordered, let me make a few broad observations that have emerged from this process.

 

First, everyone who has looked at these problems, including skeptics of existing programs, recognizes that we have real enemies and threats, and that intelligence serves a vital role in confronting them. We cannot prevent terrorist attacks or cyber-threats without some capability to penetrate digital communications – whether it’s to unravel a terrorist plot; to intercept malware that targets a stock exchange; to make sure air traffic control systems are not compromised; or to ensure that hackers do not empty your bank accounts.

 

Moreover, we cannot unilaterally disarm our intelligence agencies. There is a reason why blackberries and I-Phones are not allowed in the White House Situation Room. We know that the intelligence services of other countries – including some who feign surprise over the Snowden disclosures – are constantly probing our government and private sector networks, and accelerating programs to listen to our conversations, intercept our emails, or compromise our systems. Meanwhile, a number of countries, including some who have loudly criticized the NSA, privately acknowledge that America has special responsibilities as the world’s only superpower; that our intelligence capabilities are critical to meeting these responsibilities; and that they themselves have relied on the information we obtain to protect their own people.

 

Second, just as ardent civil libertarians recognize the need for robust intelligence capabilities, those with responsibilities for our national security readily acknowledge the potential for abuse as intelligence capabilities advance, and more and more private information is digitized. After all, the folks at NSA and other intelligence agencies are our neighbors and our friends. They have electronic bank and medical records like everyone else. They have kids on Facebook and Instagram, and they know, more than most of us, the vulnerabilities to privacy that exist in a world where transactions are recorded; emails and text messages are stored; and even our movements can be tracked through the GPS on our phones.

 

Third, there was a recognition by all who participated in these reviews that the challenges to our privacy do not come from government alone. Corporations of all shapes and sizes track what you buy, store and analyze our data, and use it for commercial purposes; that’s how those targeted ads pop up on your computer or smartphone. But all of us understand that the standards for government surveillance must be higher. Given the unique power of the state, it is not enough for leaders to say: trust us, we won’t abuse the data we collect. For history has too many examples when that trust has been breached. Our system of government is built on the premise that our liberty cannot depend on the good intentions of those in power; it depends upon the law to constrain those in power.

 

I make these observations to underscore that the basic values of most Americans when it comes to questions of surveillance and privacy converge far more than the crude characterizations that have emerged over the last several months. Those who are troubled by our existing programs are not interested in a repeat of 9/11, and those who defend these programs are not dismissive of civil liberties. The challenge is getting the details right, and that’s not simple. Indeed, during the course of our review, I have often reminded myself that I would not be where I am today were it not for the courage of dissidents, like Dr. King, who were spied on by their own government; as a President who looks at intelligence every morning, I also can’t help but be reminded that America must be vigilant in the face of threats. 

 

Fortunately, by focusing on facts and specifics rather than speculation and hypotheticals, this review process has given me – and hopefully the American people – some clear direction for change. And today, I can announce a series of concrete and substantial reforms that my Administration intends to adopt administratively or will seek to codify with Congress. 

 

First, I have approved a new presidential directive for our signals intelligence activities, at home and abroad. This guidance will strengthen executive branch oversight of our intelligence activities. It will ensure that we take into account our security requirements, but also our alliances; our trade and investment relationships, including the concerns of America’s companies; and our commitment to privacy and basic liberties. And we will review decisions about intelligence priorities and sensitive targets on an annual basis, so that our actions are regularly scrutinized by my senior national security team.

 

Second, we will reform programs and procedures in place to provide greater transparency to our surveillance activities, and fortify the safeguards that protect the privacy of U.S. persons. Since we began this review, including information being released today, we have declassified over 40 opinions and orders of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which provides judicial review of some of our most sensitive intelligence activities – including the Section 702 program targeting foreign individuals overseas and the Section 215 telephone metadata program. Going forward, I am directing the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with the Attorney General, to annually review – for the purpose of declassification – any future opinions of the Court with broad privacy implications, and to report to me and Congress on these efforts. To ensure that the Court hears a broader range of privacy perspectives, I am calling on Congress to authorize the establishment of a panel of advocates from outside government to provide an independent voice in significant cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

 

Third, we will provide additional protections for activities conducted under Section 702, which allows the government to intercept the communications of foreign targets overseas who have information that’s important for our national security. Specifically, I am asking the Attorney General and DNI to institute reforms that place additional restrictions on government’s ability to retain, search, and use in criminal cases, communications between Americans and foreign citizens incidentally collected under Section 702.

 

Fourth, in investigating threats, the FBI also relies on National Security Letters, which can  require companies to provide specific and limited information to the government without disclosing the orders to the subject of the investigation. These are cases in which it is important that the subject of the investigation, such as a possible terrorist or spy, isn’t tipped off. But we can – and should – be more transparent in how government uses this authority. I have therefore directed the Attorney General to amend how we use National Security Letters so this secrecy will not be indefinite, and will terminate within a fixed time unless the government demonstrates a real need for further secrecy.  We will also enable communications providers to make public more information than ever before about the orders they have received to provide data to the government.

 

This brings me to program that has generated the most controversy these past few months – the bulk collection of telephone records under Section 215. Let me repeat what I said when this story first broke – this program does not involve the content of phone calls, or the names of people making calls. Instead, it provides a record of phone numbers and the times and lengths of calls – meta-data that can be queried if and when we have a reasonable suspicion that a particular number is linked to a terrorist organization.

 

Why is this necessary? The program grew out of a desire to address a gap identified after 9/11. One of the 9/11 hijackers – Khalid al-Mihdhar – made a phone call from San Diego to a known al Qaeda safe-house in Yemen. NSA saw that call, but could not see that it was coming from an individual already in the United States. The telephone metadata program under Section 215 was designed to map the communications of terrorists, so we can see who they may be in contact with as quickly as possible. This capability could also prove valuable in a crisis. For example, if a bomb goes off in one of our cities and law enforcement is racing to determine whether a network is poised to conduct additional attacks, time is of the essence.  Being able to quickly review telephone connections to assess whether a network exists is critical to that effort.

 

In sum, the program does not involve the NSA examining the phone records of ordinary Americans. Rather, it consolidates these records into a database that the government can query if it has a specific lead – phone records that the companies already retain for business purposes. The Review Group turned up no indication that this database has been intentionally abused. And I believe it is important that the capability that this program is designed to meet is preserved.  

 

Having said that, I believe critics are right to point out that without proper safeguards, this type of program could be used to yield more information about our private lives, and open the door to more intrusive, bulk collection programs. They also rightly point out that although the telephone bulk collection program was subject to oversight by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and has been reauthorized repeatedly by Congress, it has never been subject to vigorous public debate.

 

For all these reasons, I believe we need a new approach. I am therefore ordering a transition that will end the Section 215 bulk metadata program as it currently exists, and establish a mechanism that preserves the capabilities we need without the government holding this bulk meta-data.

 

This will not be simple. The Review Group recommended that our current approach be replaced by one in which the providers or a third party retain the bulk records, with the government accessing information as needed. Both of these options pose difficult problems. Relying solely on the records of multiple providers, for example, could require companies to alter their procedures in ways that raise new privacy concerns. On the other hand, any third party maintaining a single, consolidated data-base would be carrying out what is essentially a government function with more expense, more legal ambiguity, and a doubtful impact on public confidence that their privacy is being protected.

 

During the review process, some suggested that we may also be able to preserve the capabilities we need through a combination of existing authorities, better information sharing, and recent technological advances. But more work needs to be done to determine exactly how this system might work.

 

Because of the challenges involved, I’ve ordered that the transition away from the existing program will proceed in two steps. Effective immediately, we will only pursue phone calls that are two steps removed from a number associated with a terrorist organization instead of three. And I have directed the Attorney General to work with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court so that during this transition period, the database can be queried only after a judicial finding, or in a true emergency.

 

Next, I have instructed the intelligence community and Attorney General to use this transition period to develop options for a new approach that can match the capabilities and fill the gaps that the Section 215 program was designed to address without the government holding this meta-data. They will report back to me with options for alternative approaches before the program comes up for reauthorization on March 28.  During this period, I will consult with the relevant committees in Congress to seek their views, and then seek congressional authorization for the new program as needed. 

 

The reforms I’m proposing today should give the American people greater confidence that their rights are being protected, even as our intelligence and law enforcement agencies maintain the tools they need to keep us safe. I recognize that there are additional issues that require further debate. For example, some who participated in our review, as well as some in Congress, would like to see more sweeping reforms to the use of National Security Letters, so that we have to go to a judge before issuing these requests. Here, I have concerns that we should not set a standard for terrorism investigations that is higher than those involved in investigating an ordinary crime. But I agree that greater oversight on the use of these letters may be appropriate, and am prepared to work with Congress on this issue.  There are also those who would like to see different changes to the FISA court than the ones I have proposed. On all of these issues, I am open to working with Congress to ensure that we build a broad consensus for how to move forward, and am confident that we can shape an approach that meets our security needs while upholding the civil liberties of every American.

 

Let me now turn to the separate set of concerns that have been raised overseas, and focus on America’s approach to intelligence collection abroad. As I’ve indicated, the United States has unique responsibilities when it comes to intelligence collection. Our capabilities help protect not only our own nation, but our friends and allies as well. Our efforts will only be effective if ordinary citizens in other countries have confidence that the United States respects their privacy too. And the leaders of our close friends and allies deserve to know that if I want to learn what they think about an issue, I will pick up the phone and call them, rather than turning to surveillance. In other words, just as we balance security and privacy at home, our global leadership demands that we balance our security requirements against our need to maintain trust and cooperation among people and leaders around the world. 

 

For that reason, the new presidential directive that I have issued today will clearly prescribe what we do, and do not do, when it comes to our overseas surveillance. To begin with, the directive makes clear that the United States only uses signals intelligence for legitimate national security purposes, and not for the purpose of indiscriminately reviewing the emails or phone calls of ordinary people. I have also made it clear that the United States does not collect intelligence to suppress criticism or dissent, nor do we collect intelligence to disadvantage people on the basis of their ethnicity, race, gender, sexual orientation, or religious beliefs. And we do not collect intelligence to provide a competitive advantage to U.S. companies, or U.S. commercial sectors.

 

In terms of our bulk collection of signals intelligence, U.S. intelligence agencies will only use such data to meet specific security requirements: counter-intelligence; counter-terrorism; counter-proliferation; cyber-security; force protection for our troops and allies; and combating transnational crime, including sanctions evasion. Moreover, I have directed that we take the unprecedented step of extending certain protections that we have for the American people to people overseas. I have directed the DNI, in consultation with the Attorney General, to develop these safeguards, which will limit the duration that we can hold personal information, while also restricting the use of this information.

 

The bottom line is that people around the world – regardless of their nationality – should know that the United States is not spying on ordinary people who don’t threaten our national security, and that we take their privacy concerns into account. This applies to foreign leaders as well. Given the understandable attention that this issue has received, I have made clear to the intelligence community that – unless there is a compelling national security purpose – we will not monitor the communications of heads of state and government of our close friends and allies. And I’ve instructed my national security team, as well as the intelligence community, to work with foreign counterparts to deepen our coordination and cooperation in ways that rebuild trust going forward.

 

Now let me be clear: our intelligence agencies will continue to gather information about the intentions of governments – as opposed to ordinary citizens – around the world, in the same way that the intelligence services of every other nation does. We will not apologize simply because our services may be more effective. But heads of state and government with whom we work closely, and on whose cooperation we depend, should feel confident that we are treating them as real partners. The changes I’ve ordered do just that.

 

Finally, to make sure that we follow through on these reforms, I am making some important changes to how our government is organized. The State Department will designate a senior officer to coordinate our diplomacy on issues related to technology and signals intelligence. We will appoint a senior official at the White House to implement the new privacy safeguards that I have announced today. I will devote the resources to centralize and improve the process we use to handle foreign requests for legal assistance, keeping our high standards for privacy while helping foreign partners fight crime and terrorism.

 

I have also asked my Counselor, John Podesta, to lead a comprehensive review of big data and privacy. This group will consist of government officials who—along with the President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology—will reach out to privacy experts, technologists and business leaders, and look at how the challenges inherent in big data are being  confronted by both the public and private sectors; whether we can forge international norms on how to manage this data; and how we can continue to promote the free flow of information in ways that are consistent with both privacy and security.  

 

For ultimately, what’s at stake in this debate goes far beyond a few months of headlines, or passing tensions in our foreign policy. When you cut through the noise, what’s really at stake is how we remain true to who we are in a world that is remaking itself at dizzying speed. Whether it’s the ability of individuals to communicate ideas; to access information that would have once filled every great library in every country in the world; or to forge bonds with people on other sides of the globe, technology is remaking what is possible for individuals, for institutions, and for the international order. So while the reforms that I have announced will point us in a new direction, I am mindful that more work will be needed in the future. 

 

One thing I’m certain of: this debate will make us stronger. And I also know that in this time of change, the United States of America will have to lead. It may seem sometimes that America is being held to a different standard, and the readiness of some to assume the worst motives by our government can be frustrating. No one expects China to have an open debate about their surveillance programs, or Russia to take the privacy concerns of citizens into account. But let us remember that we are held to a different standard precisely because we have been at the forefront in defending personal privacy and human dignity.

 

As the nation that developed the Internet, the world expects us to ensure that the digital revolution works as a tool for individual empowerment rather than government control. Having faced down the totalitarian dangers of fascism and communism, the world expects us to stand up for the principle that every person has the right to think and write and form relationships freely – because individual freedom is the wellspring of human progress.

 

Those values make us who we are. And because of the strength of our own democracy, we should not shy away from high expectations. For more than two centuries, our Constitution has weathered every type of change because we have been willing to defend it, and because we have been willing to question the actions that have been taken in its defense. Today is no different. Together, let us chart a way forward that secures the life of our nation, while preserving the liberties that make our nation worth fighting for. Thank you.   

 

 

 

 

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Wednesday, January 15, 2014

DEEP Commissioner Dan Esty heading back to Yale

Read the statements about Commissioner Esty's return to Yale here:

 
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy
 
“As the first Commissioner of a state agency that took on expanded responsibilities, Dan Esty led the way in integrating and reinvigorating our approach to environmental regulation and energy policy and building a strong foundation for 21st century action,” said Governor Malloy. “During the three years he served as Commissioner, innovative and breakthrough programs were put in place to successfully address long-standing environmental and energy challenges.  In addition, steps were taken to lighten the burden of electricity costs, an issue that has created real problems for our families and businesses.   I thank Commissioner Esty for all he has done in working closely with me to build a stronger future for Connecticut and I wish him all the best upon his return to his duties at Yale.”
 
Commissioner Esty was appointed by Governor Malloy in March 2011 to head what was then the Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).  He then became Commissioner of DEEP, when the role of DEP was expanded and its name was changed in July 2011.  DEEP is charged with conserving, improving, and protecting the state’s natural resources and environment and with developing and implanting policies and programs to make cheaper, cleaner, and more reliable energy available to Connecticut’s residents and businesses.
  
“I am proud of all we’ve accomplished on the environmental and energy fronts with the hard work of a skilled and dedicated agency staff and the active support, engagement and guidance of Governor Malloy,” said Commissioner Esty.  “In sum, our efforts have made Connecticut a national leader when it comes to innovative approaches to both environmental regulation and energy policy.”
 
He continued, “We have demonstrated that we can protect our natural resources and quality of life while strengthening our economy and creating jobs.  We have also shown that by harnessing market forces and using innovative financing solutions to leverage private capital, we can make real progress in bringing cheaper, cleaner, more reliable power for both residents and businesses.”
 
State Sen. Ed Meyer, D-Guilford (Co-Chairman of the General Assembly’s Environment Committee)
 
“Commissioner Esty, in coordination with the Governor, has greatly raised the environment and energy standards in Connecticut, and he will not be easily replaced,” saidSenator Ed Meyer. “He has done an exceptional job of joining the environment with clean energy. His leadership with respect to the preservation of the shoreline in regard to extreme weather, sea level rise and sewage spillage has been particularly noteworthy.”
Since Esty’s appointment to the position in 2011, he and Senator Meyer have worked together on many critical issues concerning the conservation and protection of Connecticut’s natural resources and environment. Senator Meyer particularly thanked Esty for his work protecting the shoreline communities that Meyer represents following destructive storms that have struck the state in recent years.

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Thursday, January 9, 2014

Office of Policy and Management report on Connecticut debt

Per the office of Governor Dannel P. Malloy, he today received a report from Office of Policy and Management Secretary Benjamin Barnes "that shows overall state debt has been reduced by 15% over the last three years, or $11.6 billion."

Read it here:


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Wednesday, January 8, 2014

President Obama on the 50th Anniversary of 'War on Poverty'

Statement by the President on the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty

The following is shared here from a release sent by the White House. It is unedited here:


"As Americans, we believe that everyone who works hard deserves a chance at opportunity, and that all our citizens deserve some basic measure of security.  And so, 50 years ago, President Johnson declared a War on Poverty to help each and every American fulfill his or her basic hopes.  We created new avenues of opportunity through jobs and education, expanded access to health care for seniors, the poor, and Americans with disabilities, and helped working families make ends meet.  Without Social Security, nearly half of seniors would be living in poverty.  Today, fewer than one in seven do.  Before Medicare, only half of seniors had some form of health insurance.  Today, virtually all do.  And because we expanded pro-work and pro-family programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit, a recent study found that the poverty rate has fallen by nearly 40% since the 1960s, and kept millions from falling into poverty during the Great Recession. 

 

These endeavors didn’t just make us a better country.  They reaffirmed that we are a great country.  They lived up to our best hopes as a people who value the dignity and potential of every human being.  But as every American knows, our work is far from over.  In the richest nation on Earth, far too many children are still born into poverty, far too few have a fair shot to escape it, and Americans of all races and backgrounds experience wages and incomes that aren’t rising, making it harder to share in the opportunities a growing economy provides.  That does not mean, as some suggest, abandoning the War on Poverty.  In fact, if we hadn’t declared “unconditional war on poverty in America,” millions more Americans would be living in poverty today.  Instead, it means we must redouble our efforts to make sure our economy works for every working American.  It means helping our businesses create new jobs with stronger wages and benefits, expanding access to education and health care, rebuilding those communities on the outskirts of hope, and constructing new ladders of opportunity for our people to climb. 

 

We are a country that keeps the promises we’ve made.  And in a 21st century economy, we will make sure that as America grows stronger, this recovery leaves no one behind.  Because for all that has changed in the 50 years since President Johnson dedicated us to this economic and moral mission, one constant of our character has not: we are one nation and one people, and we rise or fall together."
 
Editor's note: All information in this post was contributed. Click one of the buttons below to share it.

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Monday, January 6, 2014

Blumenthal, Murphy, Esty praise $1.9 Million SERV Grant for Newtown

 
In a press release, U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy, and U.S. Rep. Elizabeth Esty, all D-Conn., "applauded a $1.9 million School Emergency Response to Violence (SERV) grant from the U.S. Department of Education for the Newtown Public School District to support further recovery efforts in the wake of the December 14, 2012 tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School."

This is the release, shared unedited here: 

“What happened in Newtown on December 14, 2012 was an unimaginable tragedy that has touched people across the country. As a nation, we have a solemn obligation to help this community rebuild and heal,” the members said. “This grant is another critical step in meeting that obligation and in making sure that Newtown teachers, students and families have the resources they need to restore a safe and healthy learning environment. We will continue to work with the Administration to ensure that the Newtown community has the support they need to heal, and we will advocate for them every step of the way.”

 
Today’s $1.9 million grant will go toward additional grief support services for siblings and those who lost their peers; classroom-based psycho-education and skill-building strategies; skill-based interventions for affected students identified as needing assistance for posttraumatic stress reactions, traumatic grief, separation anxiety and other behavioral and functional problems; tutoring for students demonstrating academic decline since the incident; additional security; and additional nursing services.

 
The U.S. Department of Education previously awarded a $1.3 Million SERV grant to the Newtown Public School District in May 2013. The previous grant supported both the actions taken by the district immediately following the shootings, as well as the district’s comprehensive school-based behavioral and academic recovery program. Those services included support groups for parents, siblings, students and teachers; creative expression and wellness activities; counseling; training for educators and school personnel; and additional support staff.

 Also in May 2013, Senator Blumenthal, Senator Murphy, and Congresswoman Esty introduced the Helping Communities Rebuild After Deadly School Shootings and Other Traumatic Events Act, which would authorize schools to apply for future funding through the existing SERV grant program for site construction in the wake of mass tragedies, and allow for federal assistance to Sandy Hook Elementary School for its reconstruction project.

 For more information about the Project SERV program, visit: http://www2.ed.gov/programs/dvppserv/index.html.  
 
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Permanent Commission on the Status of Women release on Dora B. Schriro


Permanent Commission on the Status of Women comment on appointment of Dora B. Schriro as Commissioner of Connecticut Department of Public Safety 

From release, unedited here: 

For years, the PCSW has challenged the Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection (DESPP), formerly the Department of Public Safety, on its historically poor track record when it comes to the promotion and retention of women to leadership positions. So we welcome the appointment of Dora Schriro to this critical and highly visible appointment, and we look forward to working with her on policies and procedures that will help remedy gender inequity among the DESPP’s ranks and leadership.

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