On the News With Thom Hartmann: A Government Oversight Panel Says That NSA Spying Programs Are Illegal, and More

In today’s On the News segment: A government oversight panel says that NSA spying programs are illegal; dangerous levels of methane gas are leaking all around our nation’s capital; Pope Francis loves the internet; and more.

TRANSCRIPT:

Jim Javinsky in for Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. A government oversight panel says that NSA spying programs are illegal. On Thursday, a report by the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was released, and it took serious aim at government surveillance. The 238-page report concluded that the bulk collection of phone data breaks the law, violates our civil rights, and does not make our nation any safer. The board said that the NSA program “lacks a viable legal foundation under Section 215 [of the Patriot Act], implicated constitutional concerns under the First and Fourth Amendments,” and they say it should be shut down. This is the strongest opposition to the NSA to come from anywhere within the U.S. Government, and it was released just days after President Obama spoke to our nation in defense of NSA surveillance. Despite the President’s claims that these programs are necessary to prevent terrorism, the oversight board said, “We believe that in only one instance over the past seven years has the program arguably contributed to the identification of an unknown terrorism suspect.” Although, they added that “there is reason to believe that the FBI may have discovered him without the contribution of the NSA’s program.” This report clearly states what many Americans and Civil Liberty groups have been saying since government spying programs were revealed – collecting Americans’ phone and internet data is illegal without a warrant. Now it’s time for the President to respect our constitutional rights and put an end to NSA spying.
In screwed news… Dangerous levels of methane gas are leaking all around our nation’s capital. Using portable methane detectors, a team of scientists from Duke University found almost 6,000 leaks from gas utility lines in Washington, D.C. Last year the team alerted the Washington Gas Company that 12 of those leaks were large enough to cause an explosion, and the scientists say that nine of those are still leaking dangerous amounts of methane. In addition to posing a dangerous risk of explosion, these leaks have a huge impact on our environment. As a greenhouse gas, methane is 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and it is significantly contributing to global warming. And these Scientists say that DC isn’t the only city with thousands of leaks. The team also found more than 3,000 methane leaks in Boston, which means many more cities could have the same problem. For the safety of residents, and our environment, utility companies must repair these methane leaks now.
In the best of the rest of the news…
More than 60 labor, environmental, and internet advocacy groups have joined together to launch the “10 Days to Stop Fast Track” campaign. Groups like the Sierra Club, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and the AFL-CIO are taking part in ten days of intense protests, meetings, and congressional call-ins. The campaign is aimed at stopping fast-track legislation that would prevent Congress from having a full debate on the Trans Pacific Partnership and other trade deals. Maira Sutton of the EFF said, “As long as the U.S. Trade office treats corporate insiders as the only relevant voice in policymaking, as long as elected lawmakers are largely shut out, and as long as Internet users’ concerns are considered an after-thought, the entire trade negotiation process is undemocratic and illegitimate.” You can join their fight at StopFastTrack.com.
According to RadCast.org, we’re seeing radiation levels spike again as weather vapor moves in from the West Coast. Paso Robles, California is averaging 42 counts per minute, with spikes of 98, and Sitka, Alaska is reporting 29 counts per minute, with highs of 104. Layton, Utah is sitting at 45 counts per minute, with spikes of 74, and Lakewood, Colorado is hovering at 65, with highs of 107 counts per minute. Durham, North Carolina is averaging 32 counts per minute, with spikes of 54, and Baldwinsville, New York is sitting at 37, with highs of 74 counts per minute. RadCast.org‘s alert level is 100 counts per minute, but they remind us that there is no such thing as a safe level of radiation.
A federal appeals court just ruled in favor of our environment. On Wednesday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with native and environmental groups who challenged our government opening up millions of acres of the Arctic to oil and gas drilling. The Court issued a ruling saying that the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management “only considered the best case scenario for environmental harm,” and that doing so “skew[ed] the data toward fewer environmental impacts.” In other words, the Bureau didn’t consider the real dangers to this pristine environment, or the real difficulty that oil companies would have dealing with a spill in the Arctic. This ruling is a huge victory for the Arctic, and the numerous environmental groups who have fought hard to keep the oil companies out of this environment.
And finally… Pope Francis loves the internet. On Thursday, the Holy Father released a statement calling the internet a “gift from God,” and praised the web for “creating a sense of unity of the human family.” As part of the Catholic Church’s World Communications Day, His Holiness said, “Communication is ultimately a human rather than a technological achievement…The digital world can be an environment rich in humanity. A network not of wires but of people.” Once again, Pope Francis connecting with younger people all around the world by appreciating the power of the internet. As far as the web being a gift from God…well… Al Gore may have something to say about that.
And that’s the way it is today – Friday, January 24, 2014. I’m Jim Javinsky, in for Thom Hartmann – on the news.