Thursday, March 7, 2013

Toomey: Obama Dinner was ‘a Beginning’

March 7, 2013, 8:26 AM

Getty ImagesSens. Tom Coburn, Richard Burr and Saxby Chambliss leave the dinner.

By Peter Nicholas and Kristina Peterson

We’ll be learning more today about how President Barack Obama‘s dinner with 12 Republican senators went on Wednesday night, but signs so far are that it served the president’s purpose of breaking the ice with lawmakers who may be willing to join new talks on deficit-cutting, taxes, entitlements and other budgetary matters.

The latest read on the dinner comes from Sen. Pat Toomey (R., Pa.), who said the evening offered “a candid and constructive conversation . . . Most of the discussion was about fiscal issues, although it did extend beyond fiscal and budgetary issues.”

“We weren’t there to negotiate a deal, but to have a discussion to find common ground and discuss a process on the big fiscal challenges,” Mr. Toomey said. “There will be a chance for further exchange, and we’ll see where it goes.”

His conclusion: “I think there are areas where we could reach common ground — I think that is possible — but it’s not going to happen over one dinner.”

Mr. Toomey’s assessment matches an even more upbeat recounting of the dinner from Sen. John Hoeven (R., N.D.), who told The Wall Street Journal on Wednesday night that he saw the opportunity to reach a “grand-bargain”-style deal as the House and Senate work on their budgets for the next fiscal year and lawmakers face a May deadline for raising the federal borrowing limit.

Mr. Obama led off the dinner with remarks and then opened the floor to a free-flowing conversation, Mr. Hoeven said. Discussion topics included energy, an overhaul of immigration law, the budget cuts for the current year known as the sequester, and the resolution passed Wednesday by the House to extend the government’s funding past March 27. The Senate is expected to vote on that measure next week.

“The real focus was the debt and the deficit and how we come up with the kind of bipartisan reforms, tax reform and entitlement reform, that preserves and protects Social Security and Medicare, but that also enables us to deal with the debt and the deficit on a long-term basis,” Mr. Hoeven said.

“The heart of the discussion tonight was, ‘How do we get there? How do we get people to come together and really effect the reforms?’ ” he said.

Mr. Hoeven said there was “a recognition we really need to do this in the next four- to five-month window. The key is to stay in this intense dialogue.’’

Mr. Toomey said he was committed to tax reform that lowers tax rates and to putting the nation on a “sustainable fiscal path with long-term structural reforms of the mandatory health care programs.”

GOP Warming to Obama's Outreach

Updated March 7, 2013, 7:28 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON—Several Republican lawmakers signaled Thursday a willingness to work with President Barack Obama—or at least to hear him out—on how to reach a broad budget deal.

Rep. Paul Ryan planned to meet the president for lunch at the White House Thursday.

Read More
GOP Sen. Toomey: Obama Dinner Was 'A Beginning'
President Woos GOP to Seek Broad Deal
Live: Budget Battle Stream | Seib & Wessel

After weeks of rancor and relatively little direct engagement, Mr. Obama has expanded his recent aggressive attempts to work around GOP leaders and make his pitch for a deficit-reduction plan directly to rank-and-file Republican lawmakers.

The president followed his Wednesday dinner with 12 GOP senators by lunching Thursday with Rep. Paul Ryan(R., Wis.), the chairman of the House Budget Committee, and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D., Md.), the senior Democrat on the panel.

Both Republicans and administration officials described the discussions as productive and even pleasant. But while the lawmakers' mood may be improving, fundamental disagreements over taxes and spending persist, and lawmakers in both parties acknowledged that any significant deal would be months away at best. "I don't think anyone left there with any anticipation that over the next month or six weeks anything is going to happen," said Sen. Bob Corker (R., Tenn.), who attended the dinner. "I think the goal would be to make something happen over the next four or five months."

With across-the-board budget cuts known as the sequester having taken effect, and both the House and Senate writing legislation to avoid a partial government shutdown later this month, many lawmakers have pointed to this summer—when the government must again raise its borrowing limit—as a possible target for reaching a big deal.

House Speaker John Boehner noted Mr. Obama's outreach effort and said he hoped "something will come out of it." But he said Thursday he wouldn't support raising the debt ceiling without matching spending cuts.

Both the president and some GOP members have indicated a willingness to discuss a deficit-reduction approach that would involve overhauling the tax code and slowing the growth of spending on entitlement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. But, as Sen. Lindsey Graham (R., S.C.) noted, "The details may trip us up."

Among the potential obstacles: The White House wants tax changes that result in a net rise in revenue, which many GOP lawmakers oppose. Many Republicans want bigger changes to entitlement programs than Democrats favor. And an effort to splinter the GOP could backfire, particularly if liberal Democrats revolt at any proposal they see as too Republican-friendly.

On the day President Obama invited a group of Republican Senators to a private dinner, Sen. John McCain tells WSJ's Jerry Seib that such overtures are being "well received" and are a sign that the president "now is interested in outreach and dialogue."

Both sides offered cautionary notes Thursday. "It's going to be hard," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said. "I do not want to in any way to suggest that this is a sure thing. It is far from that."

Mr. Obama's current approach marks a shift from his recent public criticism of GOP lawmakers as he tried, unsuccessfully, to pressure them to negotiate over the sequester. His overtures to the Republican rank-and-file represents a departure from his failed efforts in 2011 and 2012 to broker large-scale deficit-reduction deals by negotiating primarily with Mr. Boehner.

Now, Mr. Obama is trying to bypass the congressional leadership in hopes of brokering a deal with enough Senate Republicans so that body can pass a bipartisan bill and send it to the House.

Mr. Obama has focused his attention largely on Republicans this week, a move that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.) described as useful to understand what measures Republican members might support. "I think it's important that they all get to know each other better," she said.Some Republicans said the president has some catching up to do, after making little effort to build relationships during his first term—a claim the White House disputes. At the same time, some said they are willing to look forward, not back.

"As an avid golfer, the president knows that one of the most important parts of the swing is the follow-through," Sen. Mike Johanns (R., Neb.) said in a statement after dining with Mr. Obama. "The same holds true here as well."—Corey Boles, Kristina Peterson and Sara Murray contributed to this article.

Sen. Levin won't seek re-election in 2014

Sen. Levin won't seek re-election in 2014

Posted byCNN Political Unit
March 7th, 2013
05:40 PM ET

Washington (CNN) - Democratic Sen. Carl Levin, 78, announced Thursday that he will not run for a seventh term in 2014.

Levin, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, called it an "extremely difficult" decision and stated that he'll better serve his Michigan constituents in the next two years of his term by not being distracted by a campaign.

"This decision was extremely difficult because I love representing the people of Michigan in the U.S. Senate and fighting for the things that I believe are important to them," he said in a statement.

During the remainder of his time in Washington, Levin said he plans to focus on his continued push for stricter rules against tax avoidance, saying tax loopholes that allow off-shore accounts are "a major drain on our treasury." He also wants to fight to boost manufacturing and address what he sees as serious flaws in campaign finance laws.

Further, Levin expressed concern about the government's fiscal problems on the military and showed a strong desire to ensure a "rapid transfer of responsibility for Afghan security to the Afghans."

"These issues will have an enormous impact on the people of Michigan and the nation for years to come, and we need to confront them," he continued. "I can think of no better way to spend the next two years than to devote all of my energy and attention to taking on these challenges."

In a statement, President Barack Obama said Levin is a "true champion for all those who serve and his tireless work will be missed not just in his home state of Michigan, but by military families across our country."

"If you’ve ever worn the uniform, worked a shift on an assembly line, or sacrificed to make ends meet, then you’ve had a voice and a vote in Senator Carl Levin," he said. "No one has worked harder to bring manufacturing jobs back to our shores, close unfair tax loopholes, and ensure that everyone plays by the same set of rules."

First elected in 1978, Levin is the longest-serving U.S. senator in Michigan's history. Before joining the Senate, Levin worked as a public defender in Detroit, where he grew up, and was elected to the Detroit City Council in 1969.

His older brother, Sander Levin, serves in the U.S. House of Representatives as the top Democrat on the House tax writing committee. The older Levin still plans to run for re-election next year, according to his spokesman.

Sen. Michael Bennet, chairman of the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, said Levin has been a "model public servant" for more than three decades.

"I'm particularly thankful for his leadership on behalf of our men and women in uniform," he said in a statement. "I am confident that we will recruit a great Democratic leader who will continue to fight for the values and priorities Senator Levin advocated for all these years. We fully expect to keep Michigan blue in November 2014."

Levin has won most of his elections by a wide margin, including his re-election bid in 2008 when he won with 63% of the vote.

He's now the fourth Democratic senator to announce that he'll step down after the next term. Fellow Democratic senators Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Frank Lautenberg of New Jersey all announced they would retire from the Senate instead of making bids for re-election next year.

Other Democratic senators who may possibly retire include Tim Johnson of South Dakota and Dick Durbin of Illinois.

On the Republican side, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and Mike Johanns of Nebraska also decided against a run.

At this point, Democrats will be defending 21 of the 35 Senate seats up for election in 2014. They currently have an advantage with 55 seats in the Senate (including two independents who caucus with them) to Republicans' 45 seats.

Arrest Raises Issue of Where to Try Terror Suspects

Updated March 7, 2013, 5:22 p.m. ET


The capture of a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden could reignite a debate over whether prominent terrorism suspects should face trial in the U.S. civilian justice system.

U.S. counter terrorism operatives captured Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, who allegedly served as a spokesman for al Qaeda, and brought him to New York City, people familiar with the matter said. He will face charges of conspiring to kill Americans, authorities said Thursday.

While federal prosecutors in New York have handled terrorism cases successfully for years, critics in the past have raised doubts about whether civilian courts are the proper home for such cases against alleged enemies of the U.S.

The controversy reached its peak several years ago, when the Obama administration planned to make New York the venue for the trial of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and four co-defendants accused of plotting the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The administration reversed course in 2010 amid an outcry over the potential cost and security concerns. The defendants now face a trial before a military tribunal.

Doubts were further fueled in November 2010, when Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, the only former detainee at Guantanamo Bay to go to trial in the U.S., was convicted by a federal jury in New York of one count of conspiracy in the 1998 bombing of U.S. embassies in Africa but acquitted of 281 other counts.

The government claimed victory on the guilty count and the subsequent life sentence received by Mr. Ghailani, but the acquittal on the other charges boosted the arguments of those who maintain that military tribunals, and not civilian courts, are the proper venues for major terrorist trials.

"It does and should reopen the debate about the proper place to try high- ranking Al-Qaeda members," said John Yoo, a University of California, Berkeley law professor who worked for the Justice Department during the George W. Bush administration. Mr. Yoo was involved in writing controversial Justice Department memos that justified the use of "enhanced interrogation techniques," such as waterboarding.

Who Is bin Laden's Son-in-Law?
Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, a son-in-law of Osama bin Laden, has been captured and brought to New York City by U.S. counterterrorism operatives. Devlin Barrett discusses his role with al Qaeda and how he was detained. Photo: AP.
3/7/2013 4:28:59 PM3:22
Mr. Yoo said if there is a rush to send suspects, such as Mr. Abu Ghaith, to civilian courts, it could inhibit the government's ability to fully exploit any intelligence gathered through his capture. Also, a civilian trial could expose classified intelligence-gathering techniques to our enemies, Mr. Yoo said.

Still, the government has had a string of successful prosecutions of terrorists in civilian courts.

Ramzi Yousef, the alleged mastermind behind the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center; Sheik Omar Abdel Rahman, who was convicted in a plot to blow up five New York City landmarks, including the United Nations; and Aafia Siddiqui, a U.S.-trained scientist accused of trying to kill U.S. troops and FBI agents in Afghanistan in 2008, have been successfully tried in New York federal courts.

Separately, Richard Reid, who tried to ignite a shoe bomb on a flight in 2001, pleaded guilty to criminal charges in federal court in Boston in 2002; Zacarias Moussaoui, pleaded guilty to conspiracy and other charges in federal court in Virginia in 2005 related to the Sept. 11 terror plot; and underwear bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab pleaded guilty to criminal charges in federal court in Detroit in 2011.

Another terrorism suspect, known widely as Abu Hamza, is set to go trial in New York in March 2014 on charges related to the 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa and an alleged attempt to set up a terrorist training camp in the U.S.

"Civilian courts are very effective," said Robert Chesney, a University of Texas law professor who served on an Obama Justice Department detainee task force. "A lot of people will see this as reviving the seeming never-ending debate. The fact remains [the Department of Justice] is extremely effective in these cases."

Some legal experts say the debate over venues is misplaced. Congress passed legislation that cuts off funding for the transfer of detainees held at Guantanamo Bay to the U.S. for trial. No new detainees have been brought to Guantanamo Bay since 2006 and the administration has publicly denounced the use of the facility.

U.S. Captures Bin Laden Son-in-Law
A son-in-law of Osama bin Laden and longtime suspected member of al Qaeda has been captured by U.S. officials. Sulaiman Abu Ghaith, shown here in an undated videotape broadcast in 2002 by the Dubai-based MBC, has been brought to New York to face charges. Photo: AFP/Getty Images.
3/7/2013 12:29:44 PM3:16
With Guantanamo Bay off the table, the government largely is prevented from trying suspects in a military commission, said Stephen Vladeck, a law professor at American University in Washington, D.C., and an expert on national security law.

Beyond Guantanamo, said Mr. Vladeck, the government lacks the infrastructure to host a military commission. "You need a courtroom, you need judges, and outside of Guantanamo, the government doesn't really have that ready to go," Mr. Vladeck said.

The military commissions have met challenges. Last month, a federal appeals court in Washington threw out the conviction of Ali Hamza al-Bahlul, who was accused of making propaganda videos for al Qaeda and was tried before a military commission in Guantanamo Bay. It was the second conviction by a military tribunal that was later dismissed by a civilian appeals court.—Devlin Barrett and Tamer El-Ghobashy contributed to this article.

U.S. Captures Bin Laden Son-in-Law and More
What's News: The U.S. captures a son-in-law of Osama Bin Laden, the United Nations Security Council votes to increase sanctions against North Korea and investigators release their report on the Boeing battery fires. Photo: Associated Press
3/7/2013 1:47:01 PM1:28

Department of Justice

Office of Public Affairs
Thursday, March 7, 2013
Sulaiman Abu Ghayth, Associate of Usama Bin Laden, Arrested for Conspiring to Kill Americans
“Abu Ghayth” Allegedly Appeared with Usama Bin Laden and Ayman Al-Zawahiri After September 11, 2001, Threatening Additional Attacks Against the United States

Sulaiman Abu Ghayth, aka “Suleiman Abu Gayth”, a former associate of Usama Bin Laden, has been arrested and charged in an indictment unsealed today in New York City with conspiracy to kill U.S. nationals, announced Attorney General Eric Holder, Assistant Attorney General for National Security Lisa Monaco, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office George Venizelos, and the Police Commissioner of the City of New York (NYPD) Raymond W. Kelly. Abu Ghayth is expected to be presented and arraigned tomorrow, March 8, 2013, at 10:00 a.m. before U.S. District Judge Lewis A. Kaplan.

“No amount of distance or time will weaken our resolve to bring America's enemies to justice,” said Attorney General Holder. “To violent extremists who threaten the American people and seek to undermine our way of life, this arrest sends an unmistakable message: There is no corner of the world where you can escape from justice because we will do everything in our power to hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

“The arrest of Abu Ghayth is an important milestone in our ongoing counterterrorism efforts. I applaud the many agents, analysts and prosecutors responsible for bringing about this significant case and arrest,” said Assistant Attorney General Monaco.

“It has been 13 years since Abu Ghayth allegedly worked alongside Usama Bin Laden in his campaign of terror, and 13 years since he allegedly took to the public airwaves, exhorting others to embrace al Qaeda’s cause and warning of more terrorist attacks like the mass murder of 9/11,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara. “The memory of those attacks is indelibly etched on the American psyche, and today’s action is the latest example of our commitment to capturing and punishing enemies of the United States, no matter how long it takes.”

“Sulaiman Abu Ghayth held a key position in al Qaeda, comparable to the consigliere in a mob family or propaganda minister in a totalitarian regime,” said FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Venizelos. “He used his position to persuade others to swear loyalty to al Qaeda’s murderous cause. He used his position to threaten the United States and incite its enemies. His apprehension is another important step in the campaign to limit the reach of al Qaeda and enhance our national and international security.”

“While New York City must remain vigilant to continued terrorist threats against it, Abu Ghayth's apprehension and prosecution promises to close another chapter in al Qaeda's notoriously violent history of killing Americans,” said NYPD Commissioner Kelly. “This case also represents another success in the ongoing partnership between Federal agents and NYPD detectives through the JTTF.”

As alleged in the superseding indictment that has been filed against Abu Ghayth in federal court:

Since around 1989, al Qaeda has been an international terrorist organization, dedicated to opposing non-Islamic governments with force and violence. Usama Bin Laden served as the leader or “emir” of al Qaeda until his death on or about May 2, 2011. Members of al Qaeda typically have pledged an oath of allegiance, called bayat, to Bin Laden and to al Qaeda.

The core purpose of al Qaeda, as stated by Bin Laden and other leaders, is to support violent attacks against property and nationals, both military and civilian, of the United States and other countries. Between 1989 and 2001, al Qaeda established training camps, guest houses, and business operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and other countries for the purpose of training and supporting its agenda of violence and murder. Members and associates of al Qaeda have executed a number of terrorist attacks, all in furtherance of the organization’s stated conspiracy to kill Americans, including the attacks on the United States on September 11, 2001 in New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania, which killed approximately 2,976 people.

From at least May 2001 up to around 2002, Abu Ghayth served alongside Usama Bin Laden, appearing with Bin Laden and his then-deputy Ayman al-Zawahiri, speaking on behalf of the terrorist organization and in support of its mission, and warning that attacks similar to those of September 11, 2001 would continue.
In particular, around May 2001, Abu Ghayth urged individuals at a guest house in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to swear bayat to Bin Laden. On the evening of Sept. 11, 2001, after the terrorist attacks on the United States, Bin Laden summoned Abu Gayth and asked for his assistance and he agreed to provide it. On the morning of Sept. 12, 2001, Abu Ghayth, appeared with Bin Laden and Zawahiri, and spoke on behalf of al Qaeda, warning the United States and its allies that “[a] great army is gathering against you” and called upon “the nation of Islam” to do battle against “the Jews, the Christians and the Americans.” Also, after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Abu Ghayth delivered a speech in which he addressed the then-U.S. Secretary of State and warned that “the storms shall not stop, especially the Airplanes Storm,” and advised Muslims, children, and opponents of the United States “not to board any aircraft and not to live in high rises.”

Abu Gayth arranged to be, and was, successfully smuggled from Afghanistan into Iran in 2002.

The indictment charges Abu Ghayth with participating in a conspiracy to kill United States nationals. The offense carries a maximum term of imprisonment of life. No trial date has yet been set in the case.

The charges and arrest of Abu Ghayth are the result of the close cooperative efforts of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, the Joint Terrorism Task Force – which principally consists of agents and detectives of the FBI and the New York City Police Department – the United States Marshals Service and the National Security Division of the U.S. Department of Justice. The Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and the U.S. Department of State also provided assistance.

The prosecution is being handled by Assistant United States Attorneys John P. Cronan and Michael Ferrara of the Terrorism and International Narcotics Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, with assistance from Trial Attorney Jolie Zimmerman of the National Security Division’s Counterterrorism Section.

The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
Attorney General

Republicans Point to Falling Oil Production on Federal Lands

March 7, 2013, 4:54 p.m. ET

WASHINGTON–The nomination of REI Chief Executive Sally Jewell to lead the Interior Department is drawing attention to declining rates of oil and natural gas production on federal lands - a trend Republicans say undermines President Barack Obama's pledge to support all forms of energy production and use.

Statistics from the Congressional Research Service released this week show oil production on federal lands and waters dropped 18% between fiscal year 2010 and fiscal year 2012, which ended Sept. 30, 2012. The report shows natural gas production dropped 28% over the same period.

Production on state and private lands, by contrast, is surging. Oil production rose 33% between fiscal years 2010 and 2012 and natural gas production increased 20%, according to the report.

"We know that we are blessed with amazing reserves and resources on our federal lands," Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R., Alaska) said Thursday. "Unfortunately, we haven't seen the level of activity and action that we want on that."

If confirmed as Interior secretary, Ms. Jewell will be in a position to determine which government-owned lands and waters are opened to drilling and which areas are protected.

Congressional Research service report

During her Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, Ms. Jewell said she respected the need to balance domestic energy needs with conservation goals but stopped short of saying whether she was satisfied with current production levels.

"I appreciate that the resources are there and technologies are enabling us to tap them, along with renewables," Ms. Jewell said before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

Mr. Obama has said he supports an all-of-the-above approach to energy use that simultaneously promotes fossil fuel and renewable energy production. Obama administration officials didn't immediately comment on the new report by the Congressional Research Service.

CRS, a nonpartisan body that advises Congress, said several factors determine when and where energy production takes place. Geologic formations supplying the largest increases in natural gas, for example, are largely located on nonfederal lands.

A report released last year by the U.S. Energy Information Administration said natural gas production on federal lands has been steadily dropping since at least fiscal year 2003. Oil production reached a multiyear high in fiscal year 2010 and then dropped the following year, the EIA report said.

Kathleen Sgamma, a vice president at Western Energy Alliance, which represents energy companies in Western states, said drillers are increasingly drawn to state and private lands because the federal approval process is expensive and time-consuming.

"It's been cumbersome for decades, but I think it has bogged down even further under the Obama administration," she said.

The degree to which Mr. Obama is responsible for a recent surge in U.S. energy production took center stage during the elections, when Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney accused Mr. Obama of taking credit for increases in domestic production that largely occurred on areas controlled by states or private citizens. Republicans have since kept up a steady stream of criticism on that front.

Democrats and environmental groups, on the other hand, praise the Obama administration for adopting policies, like fuel-economy standards, that reduce energy consumption and ease U.S. dependence on foreign oil.

The debate over federal production is unlikely to damp Ms. Jewell's confirmation prospects, and Thursday's hearing revealed little reason to believe Republicans will block her nomination. Her resume, which includes time at an oil company and a board seat at a conservation group, has won her supporters on both sides of the aisle.

A brewing battle over the construction of a road in Alaska, however, could end up delaying a vote on Ms. Jewell. Ms. Murkowski, the senior senator from that state, has threatened to put a hold on Ms. Jewell's nomination unless the Interior Department approves the project, which has been held up by environmental concerns.
McCain, Graham assail Rand Paul on targeted killings policy 

By Tom Curry, National Affairs Writer, NBC News

Highlighting the discord among Republicans over President Barack Obama’s targeted killings policy, two prominent GOP senators, John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, took to the Senate floor to criticize Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul’s 12-hour filibuster Wednesday.

Gary Cameron / ReutersSenators John McCain, R-Ariz., (L) and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. confer at the Senate Armed Services Committee in Washington March 5, 2013.
Thirteen Republican senators – including Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell and the junior GOP senators from McCain’s and Graham’s home states -- joined Paul during his filibuster to show their support for his demand that President Barack Obama explicitly say whether he thinks he has the authority to order the killing of a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil who was a noncombatant and posed no imminent threat of an attack.

Paul has delayed the confirmation of Obama’s CIA nominee John Brennan in order to dramatize his demand for an answer from Obama.

On Thursday Paul received a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder saying that the president does not have the authority "to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil."
McCain said Thursday the Senate needed to conduct hearings and an in-depth debate on Obama’s targeted killings policy, “but that conversation should not be talking about drones killing Jane Fonda and people in cafes. It should be all about what authority and what checks and balances should exist” in order to combat “an enemy that we know will be with us for a long time.”


Clipped from:

McCain and Graham slam Paul's drone filibuster

Sen. John McCain voices criticism toward fellow Republican Senator Rand Paul for indicating that it was possible for the government to attack an American cafe with a drone strike.

In his filibuster Paul had approvingly quoted an article by National Review writer Kevin Williamson which said, “As satisfying as putting Jane Fonda on a kill list might have been, I don’t think our understanding of the law would have approved such a thing even though she did give communist aid to the aggressor in Vietnam (in the 1970s).”

While Paul was conducting his filibuster, McCain and Graham were among a group of Republican senators having dinner with Obama at a Washington, D.C. hotel.
Graham scoffed at Paul’s question about whether Obama thinks he has the authority to kill a noncombatant American citizen on U.S. soil.
“I find the question offensive,” Graham said Thursday on the Senate floor. “As much I disagree with President Obama and as much as I support past presidents, I do not believe that question deserves an answer.” Paul’s question, the South Carolina Republican said, “cheapens the debate.”
Graham said flatly that Obama would not use a drone against a noncombatant sitting in a café somewhere in the United States.

Recommended: Senate panel advances bill beefing up gun trafficking laws
But there was less of a policy split that might have appeared on the surface: Paul repeatedly said during his filibuster that the government can and should use lethal force in cases when an attack is imminent.
He cited the scenario of a terrorist who was about to attack the U.S. Capitol with a bazooka or rocket launcher, as well as similar scenarios.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reflects on Wednesday's 12-hour filibuster that was led by Sen. Rand Paul.

But Paul said the Obama administration has not yet made clear “what rules are going to be used in America. If you’re going to kill noncombatants, people eating dinner in America, there have to be some rules. Does the Constitution apply?”

When Holder testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee Wednesday he repeatedly said the use of a drone to kill an American citizen on U.S. soil who wasn’t an imminent threat wouldn’t be an “appropriate” use of lethal force.
After repeated questioning from Sen. Ted Cruz, R- Texas, Holder finally said it would also not be constitutional. Holder said, “I thought I was saying ‘no.’ All right, no.”
In his comments on the Senate floor Thursday, Graham reprised the points he made Wednesday during the Holder hearing.
But the Paul filibuster and the excitement it generated among libertarians and Republicans has given new visibility to the discord over the targeted killings strategy and whether Obama might seek to apply it to U.S. citizen who posed an imminent threat.

Graham said to Holder, “I want to stand by you and the president to make sure we don’t criminalize the war and that the commander-in-chief continues to have the authority to protect us all.” He said “a lot of my colleagues are well-meaning but there is only one commander-in-chief in our Constitution.”
As drone furor ebbs, Senate confirms Brennan as CIA director
By Tom Curry, National Affairs Writer, NBC News

The Senate voted Thursday by a vote of 63 to 34 to confirm John Brennan, President Barack Obama’s nominee to head the Central Intelligence Agency after a filibuster sparked by the administration’s policy of targeted killings of terrorists.

On Wednesday, Sen. Rand Paul, R- Ky., staged a 12-hour filibuster to draw attention to his demand that Obama explicitly say whether he thinks he has the constitutional authority to order the killing of noncombatant American citizens on U.S. soil.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid reflects on Wednesday's 12-hour filibuster that was led by Sen. Rand Paul.
On Thursday Paul received a letter from Attorney General Eric Holder in which he said the president doesn’t have the authority "to use a weaponized drone to kill an American not engaged in combat on American soil."
Paul said on the Senate floor Thursday that he was “very pleased to have gotten this response back from the attorney general of the United States and I think Americans should see this battle we’ve had in the last 24 hours as something that’s good for the country.”

During his filibuster Paul mocked Brennan for saying at his confirmation hearing last month before the Senate Intelligence Committee, “What we need to do is optimize transparency on these (targeted killing) issues and at the same optimize secrecy and the protection of our national security.”

Brennan also said during his confirmation hearing that those who protest against the targeted killings “really have a misunderstanding of what we do as a government, and the care that we take, and the agony that we go through” to ensure that innocent bystanders aren’t hit in the drone strikes in Yemen and other countries. “The American people would be quite pleased to know that we’ve been very disciplined and very judicious,” he argued.

One Democrat who voted against confirming Brennan, Judiciary Committee chairman Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont said he'd reluctantly opposed the nomination because "the administration has stonewalled me and the Judiciary Committee for too long on a reasonable request to review the legal justification for the use of drones in the targeted killing of American citizens."

The administration, Leahy said, "made the relevant OLC (Office of Legal Counsel) memorandum available to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence in order to advance this nomination. I expect the Judiciary Committee, which has oversight of the Office of Legal Counsel, to be afforded the same access."

In making the case for Brennan, Intelligence Committee Chairman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D- Calif. said that his 25 years as a CIA analyst, head of counterterrorism efforts and White House homeland security advisor make him the best person for the job. “No one is better prepared to be CIA director than Mr. Brennan,” she said.

In opposing Brennan, Intelligence Committee ranking Republican member Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia criticized Brennan’s answers about leaks from the Obama administration on terrorist operations.

Implying that Brennan himself was a leaker, Chambliss said he wondered about the credibility of Brennan’s explanation of his role in funneling information to four news media commentators about a foiled 2011 al Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) bombing plot.

Chambliss also said Brennan was an architect of the administration’s policy of refusing to send any more new terrorist suspects to Guantanamo Bay. The Obama administration, he said, “appears to be avoiding opportunities to capture terrorists in favor of just killing them, or relying on our foreign partners to do our intelligence collection for us.”

President Obama Signs Violence Against Women Act

President Obama Signs Violence Against Women Act (right-click to copy direct link)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

At a ceremony at the Interior Department, President Obama signs the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). The Vice President, who was the author of the original bill while he was in the senate, also delivers remarks.

The Violence Against Women Act, originally passed in 1994, "strengthens the criminal justice system’s response to crimes against women, including domestic violence, sexual assault and trafficking," according to the White House.
The Second-Term Shakeup
President Barack Obama is naming new people to fill key posts in his second term, as some top officials leave. Here is a look at his second-term lineup.

Cabinet Positions
Department of Labor
Hilda Solis
Department of Transportation
Ray LaHood
Small Business Administration
Karen Gordon Mills
Nominated, not yet confirmed
Department of Energy
Ernest Moniz
Nominated, not yet confirmed
Department of the Interior
Sally Jewell
Confirmed by Senate
Department of Defense
Chuck Hagel
Confirmed by Senate
Department of State
John Kerry
Confirmed by Senate
Department of the Treasury
Jack Lew
Current, expected to leave
Department of Commerce
Rebecca Blank
Current, expected to stay
Department of Justice
Eric Holder Jr.
Current, expected to stay
Department of Agriculture
Thomas J. Vilsack
Current, expected to stay
Department of Health and Human Services
Kathleen Sebelius
Current, expected to stay
Department of Homeland Security
Janet Napolitano
Current, expected to stay
Department of Veterans Affairs
Eric Shinseki
Currently serving
Department of Education
Arne Duncan
Currently serving
Department of Housing and Urban Development
Shaun Donovan
Other Top Officials
United States Trade Representative
Ronald Kirk
Nominated, not yet confirmed
Environmental Protection Agency
Gina McCarthy
Nominated, not yet confirmed
Securities and Exchange Commission
Mary Jo White
Nominated, not yet confirmed
Office of Management & Budget
Sylvia Mathews Burwell
Nominated, not yet confirmed
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Richard Cordray
Named, no confirmation required
White House Chief of Staff
Denis McDonough
Named, no confirmation required
Federal Trade Commission
Edith Ramirez
Confirmed by Senate
Central Intelligence Agency
John Brennan
Current, expected to stay
Federal Communications Commission
Julius Genachowski
Current, expected to stay
Commodity Futures Trading Commission
Gary Gensler
Current, expected to stay
Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation
Martin Gruenberg
Current, expected to stay
National Security Adviser
Thomas Donilon
Currently serving
United States Ambassador to the United Nations
Susan Rice
Currently serving
Council of Economic Advisers
Alan Krueger
Currently serving
Federal Reserve
Ben Bernanke
Currently serving
Food and Drug Administration
Margaret A. Hamburg
Currently serving
Director of National Intelligence
James Clapper
Currently serving
National Economic Council
Gene Sperling
Currently serving
Press Secretary
Jay Carney
Currently serving
Surgeon General
Regina Benjamin