Nation briefs for January 17
For Obama, NSA review way to regain public trust
WASHINGTON (AP) — Faced with Edward Snowden’s first leaks about the government’s sweeping surveillance apparatus, President Barack Obama’s message to Americans boiled down to this: Trust me.
“I think on balance, we have established a process and a procedure that the American people should feel comfortable about,” Obama said in June, days after the initial disclosure about the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of telephone data from millions of people.
But the leaks kept coming. They painted a picture of a clandestine spy program that indiscriminately scooped up phone and Internet records, while also secretly keeping tabs on the communications of friendly foreign leaders, such as Germany’s Angela Merkel.
Today, Obama will unveil a much-anticipated blueprint for the future of those endeavors. His changes appear to be an implicit acknowledgement the trust he thought Americans would have in the spy operations is shaky at best.
His focus is expected to be on steps that increase oversight and transparency while largely leaving the framework of the programs in place.
The president is expected to back the creation of an independent public advocate on the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which approves the bulk collections and currently only hears arguments from the government.
And seeking to soothe international anger, Obama will extend some privacy protections to foreigners and increase oversight of the process used to decide on foreign leader monitoring.
Family of Ohio killer plans lawsuit about execution
LUCASVILLE, Ohio (AP) — An attorney for the family of a killer whose Ohio execution by lethal injection was marked by several minutes of unprecedented gasping and unusual sounds plans to sue the state because of what happened.
Dayton defense lawyer John Paul Rion said Dennis McGuire’s family is deeply disturbed by his execution and thinks it violated his constitutional rights.
Rion is a member of a state Supreme Court panel examining possible changes to Ohio’s death penalty law. He said Thursday all citizens have a right to expect they won’t be punished in a cruel and unusual fashion.
McGuire was executed Thursday for raping and killing a pregnant woman in 1989. He took nearly 25 minutes to die, an unusually long time based on prior executions.
HealthCare.gov passes recent security test
WASHINGTON (AP) — Cybersecurity concerns about President Barack Obama’s health care website were cleared up through testing, a government security professional who initially had qualms about the system assured lawmakers Thursday.
But a congressional hearing featuring three senior technology experts from within the Health and Human Services Department also revealed a broader internal debate before the hapless launch of HealthCare.gov last fall.
One of the witnesses, HHS Chief Information Officer Frank Baitman, said he personally brought security issues to the attention of the department’s second-in-command, Bill Corr, as well as another senior official. It’s unclear what, if anything, Secretary Kathleen Sebelius and White House officials were told.
Republicans on the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee are trying to build a case that the administration recklessly ignored security concerns to meet a self-imposed Oct. 1 deadline for flipping the switch.
The administration — and Democratic lawmakers — say all issues were addressed through special vigilance instituted just before the launch.
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