The Edge: Obama Gives Nod to Transparency — In Private

National Journal Staff
June 21, 2013

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Obama Gives Nod to Transparency — In Private

Stung by the uproar over secretive government surveillance, President Obama took steps today to assure Americans that he's not trampling on the Bill of Rights.

First, he nominated as FBI director a former George W. Bush official best known for a dramatic hospital standoff against warrantless wiretapping.

In 2004, then-Deputy Attorney General James Comey rushed to the bedside of his ailing boss, John Ashcroft, to stop two senior White House officials from securing the attorney general's approval to reauthorize the controversial post-9/11 program.

In a Rose Garden ceremony, Obama praised Comey for standing against "something he felt was fundamentally wrong."

Also today, the president met for the first time with a privacy and civil-liberties board that is supposed to provide oversight of anti-terror programs. Created in 2004, the board was dormant during Obama's first term, and only became functional in May.

Fittingly, the meeting was private.

Ron Fournier


OBAMA TAPS COMEY TO LEAD FBI. In a Rose Garden ceremony today, President Obama nominated former Deputy Attorney General James Comey to serve as FBI director, citing his "fierce independence and deep integrity." Obama praised the "steady hand and strong leadership" of outgoing FBI Director Robert Mueller. Read more

  • @BenjySarlin: James Comey (6"8) supplants Arne Duncan (6"5) as Official Administration Tall Person

OBAMA MEETS WITH OVERSIGHT BOARD; SURVEILLANCE GUIDELINES DISCLOSED. Obama was scheduled to meet for the first time today with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board to discuss "recent developments" such as "the disclosure of classified information," according to a senior administration official. Meanwhile, The Washington Post and The Guardian published newly disclosed documents that describe steps required of the National Security Agency before triggering surveillance (one document outlines NSA procedures that targeted non-Americans; another details procedures to minimize data collected from U.S. citizens.) These revelations show that NSA guidelines —which allow the agency to keep U.S. records indefinitely—for spying are looser than government claims. Read more

  • Meet the 16 people responsible for protecting your privacy, courtesy of The Atlantic Wire.

KERRY BEGINS OVERSEAS TRIP FOCUSED ON SYRIA, AFGHANISTAN. Secretary of State John Kerry began a two-week overseas trip today that aims to make progress on Syria and endangered Afghan peace talks with the Taliban, the Associated Press reports. Kerry will visit at least seven countries on a tour that includes Qatar, India, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, and Brunei. Syrian rebels have received their first shipment of foreign-supplied arms, a development that marks a new chapter of international involvement in the country's civil war, Al Jazeera reports. Read more

  • Writing in The New Republic, John Judis argues that many on the left, in adopting a blanket opposition to foreign intervention like the one in Syria, "are betraying their own … historical ideals."

THE WHITE HOUSE'S STEALTH CAMPAIGN ON IMMIGRATION BILL. The New York Times takes a look at the White House's "covert immigration war room" situated in a spare suite in a Senate office building, strategically situated down the hall from the Senate Judiciary Committee. A team of White House staffers uses the work space, ordinarily the domain of the vice president, to shepherd the immigration reform effort. Gathered inside are lobbyists, policy specialists, and experts from across agencies who likely will be responsible for implementing any overhaul. Read more

  • National Journal's Fawn Johnson shows what a Republican immigration victory would look like.

TIME RUNNING SHORT FOR BIG 'OBAMACARE' PUSH. The president's allies are mounting a multimillion-dollar campaign to sell the health care law. But as National Journal's Catherine Hollander reports, it's unclear whether anyone is paying attention. Read more

POLL SHOWS MARKEY WIDENING LEAD IN MASS. Heading into Tuesday's Senate special election in Massachusetts, Democratic Rep. Edward Markey has opened up a wide lead over Republican Gabriel Gomez. A UMass-Lowell/Boston Herald poll shows Markey leading 56 percent to 36 percent. Other recent polls, including from The Boston Globe, show Markey with a double-digit lead. Read more

FAA EXPECTED TO RELAX RULES ON IN-FLIGHT GADGET USE. The Federal Aviation Administration is expected to relax the ban on using personal electronics at low altitudes, "allowing passengers leeway during taxiing and even takeoffs and landings," The Wall Street Journal reports. Still, cell-phone calls are expected to remain off-limits. Read more

  • National Journal's Brian Fung writes that this is an important first step, and not just for convenience sake.


"Yeah, I do. I could beat Ed Markey, absolutely." -- Former Sen. Scott Brown, R-Mass., who had considered a Senate bid before ruling it out earlier this year (My Fox Boston)


THINK NSA SCANDAL WILL LEAD TO SCALING BACK CONTRACTORS? MAYBE NOT. Long before Booz Allen Hamilton was known for Edward Snowden, it was part of a firm that created a system to sink U-boats during WWII, Bloomberg Businessweek's Drake Bennett and Michael Riley report. Now 99 percent of its revenue comes from government contracts, and the government's reliance on contractors has grown since 9/11. Even though Snowden has kicked off a public discussion on the role of contractors, who on average make $207,000 annually, Bennett and Riley note that "conversations with current and former employees of Booz Allen and U.S. intelligence officials suggest that these contractors aren't going anywhere soon." Read more


WATCH OUR LONGEST-SERVING CONGRESSMAN TRY OUT GOOGLE GLASS. Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich., had a chance to check out Google Glass recently, and the results were captured on video. "This is quite a machine!" the longest-serving member of Congress exclaims. Watch it here


COMPARING GASOLINE PRICES AROUND THE WORLD. Bloomberg has produced a fascinating interactive graphic showing the average price of a gallon of gas the world over, with comparative rankings showing the percent of a day's wages needed to buy one gallon, and the percent of annual income spent on gas. One takeaway: The average Indian would need to work more than a full day to buy one gallon of gas – one reason the country has the lowest per-capita consumption. The most expensive gas is in Turkey, at $9.98 a gallon. The cheapest gas? It's in Venezuela, at four cents a gallon. See it here

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