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Thursday, June 6, 2013

Telephone Company Forced to Turn Over All Call Logs to NSA

According to a secret court order obtained by the Guardian, the U.S. National Security Agency is collecting the telephone call logs of millions of Americans. This specific court order requires Verizon Business Network Services, a subsidiary of Verizon Communications, to turn over all call records on a daily basis. The content of the calls is not covered under the warrant. In a letter to Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. last year, Senators Ron Wyden and Mark Udall said, “We believe most Americans would be stunned to learn the details of… these secret court opinions. As we see it, there is now a significant gap between what most Americans think the law allows and what the government secretly claims the law allows.” Indeed, this Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order does not require the NSA to show probable cause that the targets of the seizure are agents of a foreign power. It is merely required that “there are reasonable grounds to believe” that the records seized are “relevant to an authorized investigation… to obtain foreign intelligence information… or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.” The Guardian also found evidence that suggest a similar program, called PRISM, allowed the NSA to access information directly from the servers of many popular internet companies. A White House spokesperson suggested the laws and policies that allowed for these programs “have been in place for a number of years now” and that the seizures are vital for protecting national security. According to Dianne Feinstein, the chair of the Senate intelligence committee, these programs are necessary as “people want the homeland kept safe.”

Syrian Refugees Immolate Hezbollah-Sent Aid

Syrian refugees in Palestine destroyed over 1,500 packages of food aid donated to them by Hezbollah, for the second time this week. According to Omar Halabi, a local activist, the refugees noticed labels attached to each package explaining that the aid was a gift from the “Islamic Resistance in Lebanon to our brethren, the displaced Palestinians from Syria.” Halabi said, “when the refugees realized that the aid was from the same party which is killing their people in Qusair and in other places, they, with dozens of locals, took the boxes from the Palestinian Cultural Center and burned them.” The Gazan cultural center, called the Democratic Front for the Liberation of Palestine, is politically affiliated with the Assad regime. Hamas, which governs the the Gaza Strip, was also politically allied with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, but broke off its political connections when the Syrian Civil war began. A week ago, refugees from Syria set fire to humanitarian aid donated by Hezbollah in the Ain al-Hilweh refugee camp, citing their anger over the party’s role fighting alongside the Syrian regime.

IMF Admits Mistakes in Greek Bailout

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) released an internal report yesterday that negatively criticizes the handling of the Grecian bailout. The report suggests significant mistakes were made in the 2010 bailout that cost roughly $143 billion. According to the report, the IMF bent or broke three out of four of its own rules with the lending program and massively underestimated the severity of Greece’s downturn. Worse, the bailout failed to allow Greece to achieve a sustainable path to recovery. The reports concludes, “market confidence was not restored, the banking system lost 30 percent of its deposits, and the economy encountered a much deeper-than-expected recession with exceptionally high unemployment.” The Greek economy has shriveled for the last six years, erasing the previous decade’s growth entirely. Since the initial bailout the IMF has reassessed its understanding of austerity, and has begun to chart a new course for struggling economies.

Mali Resumes Tuareg War

After heavy fighting, Malian troops ousted Tuareg separatists from the village of Anefis in northern Mali yesterday. An Army spokesperson said government troops are now advancing on the last Tuareg stronghold of Kidal. Yesterday’s clash ended an undeclared ceasefire between the army and the Tuareg separatist group, the National Movement for the Liberation of Azawad (MNLA). In 2011, the MNLA and allied militant groups like Ançar Deen, succeeded in capturing the vast majority of northern Mali, but by mid 2012, the MNLN had fallen afoul of it’s allies and been routed from most of its holdings. Earlier this year, with the help of French troops, the Malian government broke a 10-month occupation of northern Mali by the Islamist groups, but left the Tuareg rebels in control of Kidal. On Monday, the Malian government accused the MNLA of attacking and seizing non-Tuaregs in Kidal, and in a statement late yesterday said its renewed offensive against the Tuareg is a response to those abuses.

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