In today’s On the News segment: A new report reveals that the DEA is sharing information, secretly-obtained by the NSA, to authorities around our nation to initiate criminal investigations of American citizens; President Obama overruled the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and declared the city of West, Texas a “major disaster”; Sen. John Kerry announced that nation will no longer discriminate against same-sex couples in the immigration process at the federal level; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news…
You need to know this. New documents obtained by Reuters show that the Drug Enforement Administration is helping the NSA cover up government surveillance. The Special Operations Division of the DEA, otherwise known as SOD, funnels secretly-obatined information to authorities around our nation to initiate criminal investigations of American citizens. And, these aren’t people suspected of terrorist plots; this DEA program targets common criminals and drug dealers. The documents obtained by Reuters indicate that agents are trained to “recreate” the source of the invesigations, to conceal how the information was originally obtained. Agents aren’t just hiding these tactics from the defense attorneys representing alleged criminals, they’re concealing the true source of information from prosecutors and judges as well. According to Reuters, some experts say that this practice violates a defendant’s Constitutional right to a fair trial, as it prevents those accused of a crime from accurately challenging the validity of the evidence presented against them. Former federal judge Nancy Gertner said, “It is one thing to create special rules for national security. Ordinary crime is different. It sounds like [these DEA agents] are phonying up investigations.” Of course, the Justice Department declined to comment on the program, but DEA officials, who spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity, defended the practice. They said that trying to “recreate” an investigative trail isn’t just legal, it’s a practice that’s used “almost daily.” Once again, government officials maintain that government spying is legal, yet say nothing about the program’s constitutionality. Since the news of secret NSA surveillance programs broke, officials from the security agency have claimed that Americans are not being spyed on, and that these tactics are necessary to keep us safe. The revelation of this DEA program proves that the officials’ claims are inherently untrue. Reuters asked a former federal prosecutor about the program, and he said, “You can’t game the system. You can’t create this subterfuge. These are drug crimes, not national security cases. If you don’t draw the line here, where do you draw it?”
In screwed news… On Friday, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted to bar the Internal Revenue Service from enforcing Obamacare. The vote marked the 40th time that House Republicans attempted to repeal the health care law. House Speaker John Boehner said, “The IRS has shown it cannot be trusted to implement the president’s train wreck of a health care law.” Of course, the measure stands little-to-no chance of passing in the Democratically-controlled Senate, and was seen by many as another excuse to avoid getting any real work done before heading home for summer recess. Democratic Congressman John Dingle said, “I suspect we don’t want to call them the Republicans anymore, but I think we ought to call them the Repeal-icans. Or perhaps the Repeal-ican’ts, because they’ve never been able to repeal anything.” Before Congress headed home, Republicans could have spent time working on jobs legislation, reversing sequester cuts, or preventing the next economic crisis. But as usual, Republicans opted to spend their time on another meaningless vote to score political points with the hard-right members of their party.
In the best of the rest of the news…
Last week, President Obama overruled the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and declared the city of West, Texas a “major disaster.” That city is still recovering from a massive fertilizer plant explosion, that killed 15 people and destroyed numerous buildings. Texas Governor Rick Perry was appealing FEMA’s denial, and a bipartisan group of Texas lawmakers were pushing for a “major disaster” declaration. After President Obama’s announcement, Governor Perry said, “The approval of the state’s appeal for a major disaster declaration is great and welcome news for the people of West. This will help this community rebuild their infrastructure, school district, and public works as quickly as possible.” An under-regulated, commercial fertilizer plant was responsible for the enourmous explosion that caused tens of millions of dollars in damage. However, many Texans, as well as many people around our nation, are happy to know that the residents in West, Texas will finally get the help they so desperately need.
Our nation will no longer discriminate against same-sex couples in the immigration process at the federal level. On Friday, Secretary of State John Kerry made the announcement, saying, “When same-sex couples apply for a visa, the Department of State will consider that application in the same manner it considers the application of opposite sex spouses.” The decision comes only about a month after the Supreme Court struck down a key portion of the Federal Defense of Marriage Act, and President Obama urged all federal agencies to review their policies accordingly. The State Department joins a list of other agencies that have already made sweeping changes to recognize equality. This announcement will bring long-awaited relief to LGBT families who have been legally or physically split between two countries. Our nation will now recognize international same-sex marriages, but we still have a long fight ahead for same-sex equality within our borders.
And finally… In the Czech Republic, residents are allowed to wear headgear in government ID photographs only for religious or medical reasons. So officials denied the request of Novy Lukas, who wanted to wear a pasta strainer on his head in his ID picture. Mr. Lukas appealed the decision, saying that as a member of the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, he has the right to wear his special hat. Officals finally approved the Pastafarian’s appeal, and said he is permitted to wear the strainer, as his request “complies with the laws of the Czech Republic where headgear for religious or medical reasons is permitted if it does not hide his face.” This may be the first time that the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has been recognized by any government, but it’s unlikely that the creature composed of pasta and meatballs will be getting an official holiday any time soon.
And that’s the way it is today – Monday, August 5, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.