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CIA Torture Report: White House Mum on Whether Methods Saved Lives

CIA Torture Report: White House Mum on Whether Methods Saved Lives

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- President Obama has condemned what he calls "torture" of detainees by CIA interrogators at black sites overseas in the dark days after 9/11.But the White House is not taking a position on whether any of the information gleaned from those sessions -- putting questions on the propriety of the tactics aside -- actually helped to save lives.The administration also refuses to say whether Obama shares the view of his own CIA director, John Brennan, who said on Tuesday that intelligence gained from enhanced interrogation techniques did in fact help to "thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives.""The most important question is: Should we have done it? And the answer to that question is no," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told ABC News' Jonathan Karl on Wednesday."The president does not believe that the use of enhanced interrogation techniques was good for our national security. He does not believe that it was good for our moral authority. In fact, he believes that it undermined our moral authority, and that is why he banned them," Earnest said.Under repeated questioning, Earnest refused to answer whether those interrogations ultimately saved lives as current and former CIA officials allege. He did say the White House believes the tactics were "not worth it."

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Campaign Finance Reform’s Death Knell Hidden in Spending Bill

Campaign Finance Reform’s Death Knell Hidden in Spending Bill

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Campaign finance reform has long been on life support, but on Wednesday it can be declared nearly dead.A proposal tucked deep inside the massive spending bill to keep the government running is a boon for political parties. It’s squirreled away on page 1,599 of the 1,603-page bill released late Tuesday night.Under current regulations, a donor can give $32,400 to the Democratic or Republican National Committee. Soon, they will be able to give a total of $324,000 -- 10 times the current limit.In a two-year election cycle, a married couple could contribute $1.3 million to the various party committees. This financing will help parties raise money for their political conventions.House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, defended the proposal as “bipartisan.” He said it would allow political conventions to be financed privately, rather than through taxpayer funding.“The Congress was very concerned about tax payer funding of political activities,” Boehner told reporters Wednesday.The change effectively guts most of what is left of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform, a 2002 law that put tight caps on political contributions.Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell has long advocated for the change, but his aides say he didn’t push for this proposal that has so far had no debate in Congress.The political parties have gradually lost their grip on power, particularly with the flood of outside contributions allowing wealthy donors to create multi-million dollar political action committees that can help campaigns far more than the parties.Campaign finance advocates questioned the transparency and the motive behind the proposal.“Increasing these limits would only enable more dollars to pour into a system already flooded with cash and would encourage higher independent expenditures in the money arms race to counter them,” said Lisa Gilbert, director of the advocacy group, Public Citizen. “This embarrassing deal sacrifices the interests of everyday Americans who want clean elections while elevating the concerns of politicians who want to raise more money.”There is a good chance President Obama will sign the bill given it is tied to the spending bill, but it’s a major change in the blurred lines of money and politics.

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NJ Voters Give Gov. Christie Mixed Approval Rating

NJ Voters Give Gov. Christie Mixed Approval Rating

Andrew Burton/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Is Bridgegate sticking to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie? According to new Quinnipiac University poll out Wednesday, 48 percent of Garden State voters approve of Christie's job performance while nearly the same amount -- 47 percent -- disapprove.The results compare to a 46 to 45 percent approval rating on Oct. 1 and, according to Quinnipiac, continue an 11-month slump that began when the Bridgegate scandal broke. The latest survey took place on Dec. 3-8, so part of the polling would have covered the new results from an interim state committee Bridgegate report, which in some ways cleared the potential 2016 presidential candidate of any wrongdoing, although the report is not final. But with some key issues, Christie is under water. On handling economy and jobs, he gets 41 to 51 percent. As for handling the state budget, he gets 42 to 48 percent and for education he gets 39 to 50 percent.

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One Torture Report, Two Very Different Interpretations Down Party Lines

One Torture Report, Two Very Different Interpretations Down Party Lines

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — Republicans on the Senate Intelligence Committee have issued a minority report in which they rebutted some of the assertions made in the majority’s report written mainly by the committee’s Democrats and released earlier Tuesday.Here are some events contained in the report on which the majority and minority takes are completely opposed to one another:The capture of Jose Padilla: The majority report said its review of cables and other CIA records shows that the use of CIA’s torture techniques on the detainee Abu Zubaydah “played no role” in the identification of the terrorist Jose Padilla, a U.S. citizen and Muslim convert who was convicted in 2011 for involvement in a terror conspiracy, or the thwarting of plots in which Padilla was involved. The majority also noted that the intelligence community had deemed Padilla’s plots “infeasible.”But the minority report asserted that the “breadth” of the information Abu Zubaydah gave up while he was being subjected to enhanced interrogation, and the impact that information had on subsequent intelligence efforts, reflected the effectiveness of the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program.Thwarting of the U.K. Urban Targets Plot: While the CIA frequently cited the purported thwarting of Khalid Sheikh-Mohamed’s plot against targets at Heathrow Airport and Canary Wharf as an enhanced interrogation success story, the report says the plot itself never progressed beyond the planning of initial stages before its main orchestrators were captured.But the minority report contended the CIA interrogation program “played a key role in disrupting the Heathrow and Canary Wharf plotting.”The “tip-off” about bin Laden courier Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti: The committee report noted repeatedly that multiple detainees provided information about Abu Ahmad al-Kuwaiti, a key courier to Osama bin Laden, outside of enhanced interrogation. Hassan Ghul, who provided key information about al-Kuwaiti in 2004, provided the most valuable information on al-Kuwaiti, the report found, before he was subject to torture techniques.The minority report said that while there was other information in CIA databases about al-Kuwaiti, the information was not recognized as important by analysts until after other detainees corroborated that information during enhanced interrogation.

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CIA Pushes Back on Assertion That It Overstated Intelligence from Detention Program

CIA Pushes Back on Assertion That It Overstated Intelligence from Detention Program

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The CIA acknowledged Tuesday that mistakes were made early on during its detention and interrogation program but pushed back strongly on the assertion made in the Senate Intelligence Committee's report that it misrepresented the effectiveness of its program in foiling al Qaeda plots.It is a case being made by CIA Director John Brennan, who, despite his continued misgivings about the enhanced interrogation techniques, argued that they provided valuable intelligence about al Qaeda.In a statement released Tuesday, Brennan accepted the report's criticism that the agency was unprepared to manage a worldwide detention program. Brennan acknowledged early mistakes he attributed to an agency that did not have the "core competencies" to run such a program."We did not always live up to the high standards that we set for ourselves and that the American people expect of us," Brennan said in the statement. "As an Agency, we have learned from these mistakes, which is why my predecessors and I have implemented various remedial measures over the years to address institutional deficiencies."But he challenged the committee's assessment that the enhanced interrogation techniques (EITs) used on almost a third of the 119 detainees held in its secret prisons did not provide actionable intelligence."Our review indicates that interrogations of detainees on whom EITs were used did produce intelligence that helped thwart attack plans, capture terrorists, and save lives," Brennan said. "The intelligence gained from the program was critical to our understanding of al-Qa’ida and continues to inform our counterterrorism efforts to this day."Brennan made similar arguments in a June 2013 letter to the committee that accompanied his agency's 130-page response to the committee's draft report.He cited what he called the committee's "unqualified assertions that the overall detention and interrogation program did not produce unique intelligence that led terrorist plots to be disrupted, terrorists to be captured, or lives to be saved."Brennan said it will "forever remain unknowable" whether the intelligence obtained from detainees subjected to enhanced interrogation techniques could have been obtained through other means or from other individuals.But he also said that the committee report only "tells part of the story," though with its 6,000 pages and 35,000 footnotes, it "has all the appearances of an authoritative history" of CIA's detention program. He said the report had two main flaws: "A methodology that relied exclusively on a review of documents with no opportunity to interview participants" and "an apparent lack of familiarity with some of the ways the Agency analyzes and uses intelligence."The CIA response also challenged the committee's description of an organization that at an institutional level "intentionally misled and routinely resisted oversight from the White House, the Congress, the Department of Justice."It noted that doing so would have required "a years-long conspiracy among CIA leaders at all levels, supported by a large number of analysts and other line officers. This conspiracy would have had to include three former CIA Directors, including one who led the Agency after the program had largely wound down."The response also presented direct rebuttals to 20 cases presented by the committee as examples where the agency claimed success from the enhanced interrogations.It criticized what it called "a number of errors of fact, interpretation, and contextualization that appear to have led the authors to conclude that the information CIA derived in each instance had little-to-no unique value."The most high profile discrepancy involved the narrative about the discovery of the true relevance of Abu Ahmad Al-Kuwaiti, the al Qaeda courier whose trail eventually led to Osama bin Laden.The committee concluded that much of the critical intelligence about al-Kuwaiti was gleaned prior to and independent of the detention program. The CIA’s position is that intelligence did not distinguish al-Kuwaiti’s earlier interactions with bin Laden and that it was the enhanced interrogation techniques conducted on Ammar al Baluchi that provided the context about his true role.According to Brennan, the CIA combined Al Baluchi’s information with other intelligence “to build a profile of Abu Ahmad’s experiences, family, and characteristics that allowed us to eventually determine his true name and location.”Shortly after he took office in January 2009, President Obama ordered an end to the CIA’s detention program and to the enhanced interrogation techniques.In its response, the CIA said it had last used the techniques in late 2007 and had stopped waterboarding in March 2003 after its use on three detainees had raised questions internally. The CIA acknowledged in its response that the procedure had been used on those detainees more frequently than had been portrayed to the Justice Department when seeking authorization for its use.According to the CIA response, the higher rate of waterboarding use had “raised serious concerns on the part of the Agency's own medical staff about the lack of available data upon which to draw conclusions about its safety.”

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Obama Unveils $1B Boost for Preschools, Including $55 Million from Disney

Obama Unveils $1B Boost for Preschools, Including $55 Million from Disney

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — It's a year-end present for tens of thousands of kids and early childhood education programs.President Obama Wednesday is set to unveil a $1 billion package of new public and private funding for U.S. preschool programs during a White House summit to promote one of his favored domestic initiatives.The Walt Disney Co., the parent company of ABC News, has contributed $55 million in “Disney Imagicademy” apps and books to help bolster pre-kindergarten reading programs, the company said.The administration is also launching a new campaign, “Invest in US,” to enhance private investment in the programs, officials said. A number of celebrities, including Shakira, Jennifer Garner and John Legend, will lend their voices to a promotional campaign."What we're demonstrating here is how important this is, that we're making progress and doing it in a bipartisan way," said Obama domestic policy adviser Cecilia Munoz.Three quarters of the funds Obama will announce come from existing government grant programs, according to the White House. Nearly four dozen private sector companies, including LEGO and PVH Corp., which owns clothing lines Calvin Klein and Tommy Hilfiger, have pledged donations of more than $300 million combined.The Education Department projects the new federal grants will allow 63,000 additional American children access to early childhood education programs next year.Only three in 10 American 4-year-olds currently have access to state-funded preschool programs, the agency said."We're seeing just tremendous interest from Republican and Democratic governors across the nation" to expanding the grant programs, said Education Secretary Arne Duncan. "What still haunts me is the unmet need in state after state after state. ...There are so many 3- and 4-year-olds that still don’t have access and we know the consequences long-term when we fail to prepare them for kindergarten."The summit is part of a domestic-agenda blitz launched by the White House following Democrats’ bruising losses in the midterm elections. Since Nov. 5, Obama has taken executive action on immigration, unveiled stringent new rules for ozone pollution, launched a task force on race and justice, and hosted summits on foster children and Native Americans.As he enters the final two years of his presidency, Obama intends to lean heavily on his so-called “convening power” to foster civic dialogue and encourage progress in areas where Congress has failed to act, administration officials said.The White House remains hopeful that early childhood education can be an issue of common ground with a Republican-controlled Congress that convenes in January.“We all share the same aspirations for our young people. And I was encouraged that this year Republicans agreed to investments that expanded early childhood education,” Obama said in a Nov. 5 news conference after the midterm elections. “I think we've got a chance to do more on that front.”There is strong public support for increased federal funding for preschool programs. Seventy percent of Americans, in a September Gallup poll, said they back efforts to expand publicly-funded pre-K education to every American. Republicans are less enthusiastic, however, with 53 percent supporting such an effort compared to 87 percent of Democrats.

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Obama Defends Immigration Reform Action at Town Hall Meeting

Obama Defends Immigration Reform Action at Town Hall Meeting

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza(NASHVILLE, Tenn.) — President Obama said Tuesday that he has the authority to reform the nation's immigration system and that the executive action he took last month does not constitute "amnesty or legalization or even a path to citizenship" for millions of undocumented immigrants.Obama made his remarks at a town hall meeting from Casa Azafran, a community center dedicated to the rights and services for immigrants and refugees in Nashville, Tennessee.As for his decision to protect up to five million people from deportation for the next few years, the president said that it was done to show undocumented immigrants "that the America people actually are fair minded and want to reward other than punish people who do the right thing."Obama suggested that he had no other choice but to act on his own given House Republicans' refusal to move on a Senate bill passed 18 months ago. He added that the response from the GOP to his executive action "was a vote taken last week to force talented young people and workers to leave our country."Knowing that he won't be in office two years down the road, the president nonetheless said that his successor, whoever that might be, won't gamble on trying to reverse his decision, claiming that the American public won't allow that to happen.Responding to a criticism from Tennessee Republican Congresswoman Marsha Blackburn that he's forcing "hard-working taxpayers to compete for jobs with illegal aliens," Obama asserted  that immigrants have always wound up being "a net plus to our economy and a net plus to our society."

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Kerry Asks Senate Panel for Expanded Authority to Fight ISIS

Kerry Asks Senate Panel for Expanded Authority to Fight ISIS

State Department photo/ Public Domain(WASHINGTON) — Secretary of State John Kerry met some stiff resistance from a member of his own party Tuesday when asking a Senate panel to give President Obama expanded authority to use military force against Islamic State militants.The U.S. with some coalition support has conducted air strikes against ISIS targets in both Iraq and Syria since last August but wants to broaden its military might to eradicate the threat posed by the Islamic extremists, not just overseas, but to U.S. interests at home.Although lawmakers don't question the ISIS threat, Democrat Robert Menendez of New Jersey, chair of Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was skeptical about giving the White House the authority to put boots back on the ground in Iraq.Menendez, like other Democrats, favors authorization without “large-scale U.S. ground combat operations” in addition to a three-year limit on the measure.However, Kerry's request is for more flexibility, arguing that while President Obama has pledged not to send soldiers to fight ISIS, Congress should at least allow him the option to do so in the event of unforeseen circumstances.The secretary of state maintained that any additional authority shouldn’t be restricted to just Iraq and Syria because ISIS might get the idea that it can establish “safe havens” elsewhere.In some ways, Republicans are more open to giving the administration what it wants, but only with a clear strategy for defeating ISIS.The Senate Foreign Relations Committee could vote on Kerry’s request by Thursday, although Congress likely won’t vote on any legislation until it reconvenes in January after the holiday recess.

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Congress Takes Step Toward Avoiding Government Shutdown

Congress Takes Step Toward Avoiding Government Shutdown

Credit: Architect of the Capitol(WASHINGTON) -- With government funding set to expire December 11th, Congress has inched one step closer to avoiding a government shutdown with the announcement of a $1.1 trillion spending measure informally referred to as the "CRomnibus." But the last minute measure, which came after the expected deadline, will likely force Congress to deal with the funding measure in a quick overtime scenario. The CRomnibus is part continuing resolution, part omnibus - with 11 bills funding the government through September of 2015.

The arrangement stipulates the Department of Homeland Security will be funded with a continuing resolution at current spending levels only through Feb. 27th. This will allow for lawmakers to prolong a debate on how to deal with President Obama's executive immigration action, which critics have called an overreach of his constitutional authority.But just because the announcement was made doesn't mean Congress is in the clear just yet. The spending measure must be passed by the House and Senate by midnight of Dec. 11th. With time quickly ticking away, it is very possible Congress may have to pass an additional separate short term continuing resolution to keep the government funded while the CRomnibus measure receives the necessary votes, is processed and then is sent to the White House for President Obama's signature.

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During Capitol Hill Grilling, Gruber Apologizes for Crediting “Stupidity of the American Voter” for Passage of Affordable Care Act

During Capitol Hill Grilling, Gruber Apologizes for Crediting “Stupidity of the American Voter” for Passage of Affordable Care Act

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Jonathan Gruber, the MIT economist who was credited as one of the architects of the Affordable Care Act, said on Tuesday that he was neither, "a politician nor a political adviser," and insisted he, "was not the architect of President Obama's health care plan."

The MIT professor faced hostile members of the House Oversight House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Tuesday as he tried to explain his input into Obamacare -- and apologized repeatedly for a series of incendiary comments he was caught making about its passage.

Gruber, who was reportedly paid millions to consult on the creation of the Affordable Care Act and various states’ related health care exchanges -- but who was largely unknown to the public until videos surfaced in which he mocked the "stupidity of the American voter" -- apologized for his statements which he Tuesday labeled as "mean," "glib" and "arrogant."

The economist was recorded boasting that keeping the public in the dark about President Obama's signature legislative act was essential to those who created it. "Lack of transparency is a huge political advantage," Gruber said, "and, basically, call it the stupidity of the American voter or whatever. But basically that was really critical to getting the thing to pass."

On the Hill, Gruber insisted he was not the, "architect of President Obama's health care plan,” as some labeled him, however, there was no getting around the fact that Gruber did have serious input during the drafting of the law as a key economic adviser. He visited the White House more than 20 times as it was being developed, and personally met with President Obama in that time as well.

Although she denied knowing who he was when the videos began making headlines, then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi touted Gruber's work in speeches and on a 2009 blog posting on her official website.

The exchanges with Gruber were occasionally tense. Fed up with what he perceived as Gruber’s posturing at one point, California Republican Darrell Issa, the House Oversight chair, asked the MIT professor point blank, "Are you stupid?" "I don’t think so, no," Gruber responded. When asked if MIT employs stupid people, Gruber again said "no." Finally, Issa asked, "So you’re a smart man who said…some really stupid things?" With that, Gruber agreed with his questioner.

Along with other Republicans taking their own pokes at Gruber, Maryland Democrat Elijah Cummings, the ranking Democrat on the committee, added, "Stupid -- I mean absolutely stupid comments. They were irresponsible, incredibly disrespectful and did not reflect reality." Cummings also acknowledged that Gruber's statements insulting the intelligence of the American public did serious harm to the Affordable Care Act, saying it was a "public relations gift" to the GOP, and concluding, "You wrapped it up with a bow."

Near the beginning of his testimony, Gruber said that he, "made a series of inexcusable and offensive comments, where I conjectured with a tone of expertise to try to make myself seem smarter by demeaning others, and I apologize for that."

"I behaved badly and I'll have to live with that," Gruber added. "But my own inexcusable arrogance is not a flaw in the Affordable Care Act. The ACA is a milestone accomplishment for our nation that has already provided millions of Americans with health insurance." Follow @ABCNewsRadio

 

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Hagel in Iraq to Thank Troops, Meet with Iraqi Leaders

Hagel in Iraq to Thank Troops, Meet with Iraqi Leaders

Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was in Baghdad on Tuesday, making a trip to visit and thank troops for their contributions to the ongoing fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria.According to Pentagon Press Secretary Rear Adm. John Kirby, Hagel was scheduled to meet with Iraqi leaders and speak to U.S. and Australian military personnel in Baghdad. He also intended to visit the the Joint Operations Center in Baghdad.Hagel "looks forward to gaining firsthand knowledge of coalition progress against the threat [ISIS] poses to the region, and to ensuring our troops -- and the personnel of our Iraqi and coalition partners -- understand how grateful he is for their service and professionalism."

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Why CIA Interrogators Unlikely to Be Prosecuted for Torture

Why CIA Interrogators Unlikely to Be Prosecuted for Torture

Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Despite the release of a Senate report detailing the extensive use of enhanced interrogation techniques by the CIA after 9/11, it remains highly unlikely that American interrogators who allegedly went beyond legal limits of the permitted methods will be prosecuted.The White House Tuesday deflected any questions about who, if anyone, should be held accountable, saying those decisions are up to the Department of Justice.“Questions about the legality or about the decision to prosecute are made entirely at the DOJ, as it should be,” White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters aboard Air Force One.As a senior administration official explained, “It's not our place to insert ourselves in that process.”The Justice Department has already conducted a three-year review of the interrogation program and decided not to bring any criminal charges.In August 2012, Attorney General Eric Holder explained in part that “the department has declined prosecution because the admissible evidence would not be sufficient to obtain and sustain a conviction beyond a reasonable doubt.”President Obama, who banned torture shortly after taking office, has pledged not to prosecute those who carried out the enhanced interrogation techniques, saying “nothing will be gained by spending our time and energy laying blame for the past.”“It is our intention to assure those who carried out their duties relying in good faith upon legal advice from the Department of Justice that they will not be subject to prosecution,” the president said in April 2009. “The men and women of our intelligence community serve courageously on the front lines of a dangerous world. Their accomplishments are unsung and their names unknown, but because of their sacrifices, every single American is safer. We must protect their identities as vigilantly as they protect our security, and we must provide them with the confidence that they can do their jobs.”

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Elizabeth Warren Says No to Latest 2016 Draft Moves

Elizabeth Warren Says No to Latest 2016 Draft Moves

US Senate(WASHINGTON) -- Progressive groups are hoping to change Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s mind and convince her to run for the presidency in 2016, but the Massachusetts senator is still saying no.The liberal group MoveOn launched an online member poll Tuesday to gauge their interest in drafting the liberal favorite for 2016. The result of that vote will be released at 11 a.m. Wednesday.MoveOn is also hosting a petition in support of the draft campaign. In just over the first three hours, 25,000 members signed their petition.Another group, Democracy for America, said they would join forces for the “Draft Warren” movement if a majority of MoveOn’s eight million members vote yes. Democracy for America said it would hold a similar vote of its members this week.The developments are a clear sign that the liberal wing of the Democratic party are unhappy with the way the current Democratic field is shaping up -- namely just Hillary Clinton.Warren’s press secretary Lacey Rose said on Tuesday, "As Senator Warren has said many times, she is not running for president." Warren has said the same repeatedly herself, but she’s always been careful to phrase it in the present tense.MoveOn asked their eight million members to vote on whether they think Warren should run in 2016. If members vote yes they will launch a "Run Warren Run" campaign to convince Warren to get into the race.

MoveOn says this is the first time they are conducting a vote of this kind in their 16-year history. If members vote yes -- the vote will be announced at 11 a.m. Wednesday -- MoveOn says they will set up offices in Iowa and New Hampshire and assemble a "national volunteer army" on behalf of Warren. They will also run ads and invest at least $1 million in the first phase of the launch.In a statement, MoveOn’s executive director of political action Ilya Sheyman said if the members “vote to move forward, we’ll go all out to encourage Senator Warren to take her vision and track record of fighting tooth-and-nail for working people and the middle class to the White House.”“There is too much at stake to have anything other than our best candidates in the debate,” Sheyman said. “We are prepared to show Senator Warren she has the support she needs to enter -- and win -- the presidential race.”Sheyman added they would “move quickly” in response to a positive vote and their “national team-based organizing strategy” is “inspired by President Obama’s powerhouse grassroots campaign.”Democracy for America, another progressive group, will join MoveOn in their Draft Warren effort if MoveOn members vote in support of Warren. DFA’s Executive Director Charles Chamberlain described Washington consultants explaining why Warren shouldn’t run as “beltway blather” and says the Democratic Party “need(s) Warren's voice in the 2016 presidential debate.” In a 2016 presidential poll of its one million members last month, Warren came out on top.Those two groups are not alone. The Progressive Change Campaign Committee has already begun organizing with local activists in early-voting states to promote the “Warren wing” with progressive Democrats. They announced earlier this month that they deployed a Democratic organizer to meet with local Democratic Party leaders, county chairs, union leaders, elected officials, and PCCC activists in New Hampshire to begin organizing a local coalition ahead of 2016.Warren gave an address Tuesay at the “Managing the Economy” conference in Washington that is sure to endear herself with these activists even more. She expressed her disapproval over the president’s choice for the Treasury Department’s under secretary for domestic finance, Antonio Weiss, and strongly criticized Weiss while diving into a larger critique of the relationship between Washington and Wall Street, describing their relationship as too cozy and hurting average Americans.Warren said the “revolving door rips the heart out of independent government service,” noting it rewards Wall Street financiers for serving in government with the implicit understanding they will help them when they are in the private sector.“As long as the revolving door keeps spinning, government policies will continue to favor Wall Street over Main Street,” she said. “I hope you will join me in saying enough is enough.”

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CIA Torture Report: The Most Stunning Findings

CIA Torture Report: The Most Stunning Findings

The Central Intelligence Agency(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence on Tuesday released a controversial report on the CIA’s interrogation practices -- claiming the "brutal" techniques the agency used on detainees in the wake of the 9/11 attacks “were not effective.”Below are highlights from the report:Interrogates Threatened FamiliesCIA officers threatened at least three detainees with harm to their families that included threats to harm the children of a detainee, threats to sexually abuse the mother of a detainee and a threat to "cut" a detainee's mother's throat.Interrogates Admitted to Sexual Assault"Numerous CIA interrogators and other CIA personnel associated with the program had either suspected or documented personal and professional problems that raised questions about their judgment and CIA employment. This group of officers included individuals who, among other issues, had engaged in inappropriate detainee interrogations, had workplace anger management issues, and had reportedly admitted to sexual assault."Humus, Pasta, Nuts and Raisins Rectally InfusedOne detainee's “lunch tray,” consisting of hummus, pasta with sauce, nuts, and raisins, was "pureed" and rectally infused.

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Former CIA Directors: Interrogation Program ‘Saved Thousands of Lives’

Former CIA Directors: Interrogation Program ‘Saved Thousands of Lives’

The Central Intelligence Agency(WASHINGTON) -- Six former directors and deputy directors of the CIA fired back Tuesday at the Senate Intelligence Committee with a vehemence rarely seen in the intelligence community.The former CIA leaders -- including George Tenet, Porter Goss and Michael Hayden -- blasted the Senate report, which harshly criticizes post-9/11 enhanced interrogation techniques, as “one-sided and marred with errors” and called it “a poorly done and partisan attack on the agency that has done the most to protect America after the 9/11 attacks.”Their 2,500-word rebuttal was posted as an op-ed on the Wall Street Journal website once the report was released. The former intel chiefs are also launching their own website to respond to the attacks on the CIA’s post-9/11 activities.The former directors argue that the CIA interrogation program “saved thousands of lives” by helping lead to the capture of top al Qaeda operatives and disrupting their plotting."A powerful example of the interrogation program’s importance is the information obtained from Abu Zubaydah, a senior al Qaeda operative, and from Khalid Sheik Muhammed, known as KSM, the 9/11 mastermind,” the former directors wrote. "We are convinced that both would not have talked absent the interrogation program.”As for Osama bin Laden, the former directors outlined the steps that led the Navy SEALs to bin Laden’s compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan."The CIA never would have focused on the individual who turned out to be bin Laden’s personal courier without the detention and interrogation program,” they wrote. “So the bottom line is this: The interrogation program formed an essential part of the foundation from which the CIA and the U.S. military mounted the bin Laden operation."This is the first opportunity for these former intelligence chiefs to respond to the allegations made in the report.  None of them were interviewed by the Senate Intelligence Committee for its report, nor were any current or former CIA officials.The former directors argue that the Senate report's release will do long-standing damage to the United States because it will make foreign intelligence agencies less willing to cooperate with the CIA, give terrorists a new recruiting tool, and make current CIA operatives fearful of future political attacks.“Many CIA officers will be concerned that being involved in legally approved sensitive actions can open them to politically driven scrutiny and censure from a future administration,” they said.The CIA, they insist, should instead be praised for protecting the United States."The al Qaeda leadership has not managed another attack on the homeland in the 13 years since, despite a strong desire to do so,” they wrote. "The CIA’s aggressive counterterrorism policies and programs are responsible for that success."

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Senators Take Aim at “Rolling Stone” Rape Story

Senators Take Aim at “Rolling Stone” Rape Story

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Sens. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who are pushing a bill to reform how campus sexual assaults are handled, said Tuesday they hope reform efforts can overcome a recent Rolling Stone story and subsequent apology from the magazine that have sparked criticism and discussion about campus rape and survivors.“I am saddened and angry about the bad journalism in the Rolling Stone [sic] concerning an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia,” McCaskill said. “I am sad and angry because it is a setback for survivors in this country.”Gillibrand said she hopes “this story will not ultimately outshine the story of thousands of brave women and men telling their stories. I refuse to let this one story become an excuse for Congress not to fix a broken system.”

In November, Rolling Stone published an explosive story about an alleged gang rape at the University of Virginia, relying on the victim's account. The magazine later apologized to readers after some aspects of the story were challenged, revealing it believed the victim's story contained inaccuracies.

Gillibrand said the story’s possible inaccuracy does not change the fact that UVA “has admitted that they have allowed students who have confessed to sexually assaulting another student to remain on campus” and noted that the problem has never been about just one school.

In late July, McCaskill and Gillibrand introduced as co-sponsors the Campus Safety and Accountability Act, a bill that would create new resources on college campuses, implement new training standards for school staff, and delineate penalties for schools that do not adequately report crimes and supply resources to students and victims.  McCaskill and Gillibrand formerly took the lead on introducing legislation to confront sexual assault in the military.The senators testified Tuesday as witnesses at a sparsely-attended hearing of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism on campus sexual assault and the role of law enforcement.

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Senate Report Reveals CIA’s ‘Brutal’ Interrogation Tactics

Senate Report Reveals CIA’s ‘Brutal’ Interrogation Tactics

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence released an exhaustive and explosive report Tuesday on the CIA’s interrogation practices, saying the agency repeatedly misled Americans and deeply mismanaged the program that was secretly put into place after the 9/11 terror attacks.The controversial, five-year study by the committee, which was conducted after reviewing more than six million pages of internal CIA records, found that the interrogation techniques used on more than 100 detainees “were not effective” and the management of the program “was inadequate and deeply flawed.”The report also indicates the techniques used in the CIA program were “far more brutal” than was relayed to lawmakers and the public.“It shows that the CIA's actions a decade ago are a stain on our value and on our history," Sen. Dianne Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said on the Senate floor. "The release of this 500-page summary cannot remove that stain but it can and does say to our people and the world that America is big enough to admit when it's wrong and confident enough to learn from its mistakes. Releasing this report is an important step to restore our values and show the world that we are in fact a just and lawful society.”The report examines 20 specific cases, in which the CIA claimed some type of success in retrieval of information from the interrogation procedures, but the report says those examples were found to be wrong.The report also says the management of the interrogation program was flawed, pointing to an example from November 2002 when a detainee who had been held partially nude and chained to a concrete floor and wall died from suspected hypothermia. A junior CIA officer was in charge of this facility, which is identified with the pseudonym COBALT. According to the report, senior leadership at the CIA had no knowledge of operations at COBALT.The report also details techniques that were allegedly “far more brutal” than previously revealed. The report highlights one interrogation session with the CIA’s first detainee, Abu Zabaydah, in which he became “completely unresponsive with bubbles rising through his open full mouth.” Additionally, at least five detainees were subjected to “rectal feeding” or “rectal hydration.”President Obama said the techniques detailed in the report "did significant damage to America's standing in the world.""The report documents a troubling program involving enhanced interrogation techniques on terrorism suspects in secret facilities outside the United States, and it reinforces my long-held view that these harsh methods were not only inconsistent with our values as nation, they did not serve our broader counterterrorism efforts or our national security interests," Obama said. "Moreover, these techniques did significant damage to America’s standing in the world and made it harder to pursue our interests with allies and partners. That is why I will continue to use my authority as President to make sure we never resort to those methods again."Along with the majority report led by Feinstein, Republicans on the committee released a report opposing the release of the study.“As we have both stated before, we are opposed to this study and believe it will present serious consequences for U.S. national security,” Sen. Saxby Chambliss, ranking member of the committee, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said in a statement. “Regardless of what one’s opinions may be on these issues, the study by Senate Democrats is an ideologically motivated and distorted recounting of historical events.”“The fact that the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation program developed significant intelligence that helped us identify and capture important al-Qa’ida terrorists, disrupt their ongoing plotting, and take down Osama Bin Ladin is incontrovertible. Claims included in this report that assert the contrary are simply wrong,” they continued.

But some Republicans did support release of the report, like Arizona Sen. John McCain, who was tortured as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam."I know from personal experience that the abuse of prisoners will produce more bad than good intelligence. I know that victims of torture will offer intentionally misleading information if they think their captors will believe it. I know they will say whatever they think their torturers want them to say if they believe it will stop their suffering,” McCain said. “Most of all, I know the use of torture compromises that which most distinguishes us from our enemies, our belief that all people, even captured enemies, possess basic human rights, which are protected by international conventions the U.S. not only joined, but for the most part authored."

In a response to Tuesday's report, several former CIA directors argue that the CIA interrogation program “saved thousands of lives” by helping lead to the capture of top al qaeda operatives and disrupting their plotting."A powerful example of the interrogation program’s importance is the information obtained from Abu Zubaydah, a senior al Qaeda operative, and from Khalid Sheik Muhammed, known as KSM, the 9/11 mastermind,” the former directors wrote in a Wall Street Journal op-ed. "We are convinced that both would not have talked absent the interrogation program.”

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Capitol Hill’s Craigslist: How DC’s Unemployed Find Jobs After Election Losses

Capitol Hill’s Craigslist: How DC’s Unemployed Find Jobs After Election Losses

iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — For every member of Congress who lost his or her job in the midterm elections, there are multiple Capitol Hill staffers also out of work.And that’s where Tom Manatos comes in.The former Democratic aide learned first-hand how hard it can be to find work after a new party comes to power. He now makes it his business to help other unemployed workers get back on their feet. His web-based D.C. jobs board, Tom Manatos Jobs, is known among Washington's ambitious as the place to find jobs in the halls of power. In the last month alone, since the midterm elections, Manatos has gained nearly 100 new clients freshly out of work.“Especially when, at the end of a campaign cycle, people have lost their job, I think you have a camp of people who are proactively looking before just in case their boss lost, and a camp of people who are so loyal to their boss that they didn't even want to start looking,” Manatos told The Fine Print. “And you've got to help these people walk through the next steps in their career. It's where do you want to be in two to five years and what next job is going to get you there.”For a $5 monthly fee, job seekers get access to the listings on his site, which includes a collection of jobs from Capitol Hill, non-profit organizations, and the private sector. But as Manatos advises his clients, finding the job is only the first step.“Networking to get that job is the key,” he said. “So, once they find out about the job via my website, or other websites out there, they've got to figure out who they know, who knows folks in that office, to pass along their resume.”In a town full of young and ambitious rising stars, the importance of connections cannot be underestimated.“Chiefs of staff usually tell me that on entry-level jobs they get 200-300 resumes in the first 24 hours after they post it,” Manatos said. “So, you've got to pick that stack of 300 resumes. How does your resume land on the top? It's your friend who you've worked with in a previous office, knows the chief of staff, knows the communications director, knows a member of Congress, [and] recommends you for that job. Your resume lands on top, and you get that interview.”After a bruising wave of Democratic defeats in November's midterm election, Manatos is currently helping more out-of-work Democrats than Republicans. But the site does not discriminate by party.“My list is bipartisan, because I am bipartisan by marriage,” Manatos said. “My wife worked for President Bush…and she's the one who encouraged me. She said, ‘Hey, you're helping all these people find jobs on the Democratic side. Why not the Republican side?’ Even actually at the end of the Bush administration, it was very hard for Republicans to find jobs, and what we were doing is trying to get as many jobs as possible out there to as many people as possible, regardless of party, because there are a lot of non-profits or private sector jobs that could be a Democrat or Republican job, it doesn't matter. It's who's the most qualified.”In addition to helping those looking for a job, Manatos offers consultation for ambitious planners looking to plot out the next move in their careers.“In 2013, I had people saying, 'Okay, where am I going to get my job? Where should I go to get this campaign job? Because I want to work for Hillary in 2016,'” Manatos recalled. “I have advised a couple of people, go to the primary states. Go work for Bruce Braley in Iowa. Go work for Jeanne Shaheen in New Hampshire, because those are where the jobs are going to be. And if, whether it be Hillary or somebody else from the Democratic Party or the Republican Party, they're going to be hiring within those states, and they see you have campaign experience in that state, that's going to be good for you.”Despite the fact that Manatos has found a blissfully bipartisan match of his own, don’t expect Tom’s List to branch out into dating or other non-career related sectors. “Despite having married a Republican, we're not into that,” Manatos said.“No dating, no real estate, even though we've been encouraged to say 'I have an opening in my apartment can you advertise it?' We're just jobs," he said. "We do career development. There's a whole networking portion of our site that we advertise on our free daily email. But it's jobs, internships, fellowships. We're not getting into dating or real estate.”To get more career advice from Manatos, check out this episode of The Fine Print.

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What You Need to Know About the Senate’s CIA Torture Report

What You Need to Know About the Senate’s CIA Torture Report

Alex Wong/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — The Senate's Select Committee on Intelligence is expected to make public Tuesday a redacted version of the executive summary of its comprehensive investigation of the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. The comprehensive report has come to be known in shorthand as the “CIA Torture Report."The committee’s investigation began in 2009 and three years later morphed into a 6,300-page report with 35,000 footnotes. The CIA’s security concerns about releasing the full report resulted in a compromise earlier this year by the White House and the committee to release a redacted version of the executive summary that was 500 pages in length.The report is expected to provide details about the CIA’s enhanced interrogation techniques, including waterboarding, sleep deprivation and use of stress positions that human rights groups have described as torture. Concerns that the report’s contents could incite violence overseas have led the Obama administration to raise security precautions at U.S. embassies worldwide.THE BACKSTORYIn 2002, the CIA began a program to seize al Qaeda members and hold them in secret prisons overseas that became known as “black sites." At those locations, the CIA conducted interrogations of those detainees to learn more about al Qaeda, prevent future plots and eventually find Osama bin Laden. The list of detainees included Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-professed mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, and Ramzi bin al-Shibh, one of the 9/11 plotters.In 2002, the Justice Department secretly authorized the use of specific “enhanced interrogation techniques” that would enable CIA interrogators to extract more information from uncooperative detainees. These techniques -- or EIT’s as they became known -- included the use of stress positions, waterboarding and prolonged sleep deprivation designed to coerce detainees into providing more information.In September 2006, President Bush publicly revealed the existence of the CIA’s secret prison program and announced that detainees under the agency's control would be transferred to the detention facility at Guantanamo. Upon taking office in January 2009, President Obama issued an executive order banning the use of the enhanced interrogation techniques.THE REPORTIn March 2009, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence undertook what it expected to be a year-long investigation to review the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. A committee press release said that in addition to researching the program’s history, committee investigators were also tasked with determining “Whether the CIA accurately described the detention and interrogation program to other parts of the U.S. government, including the Office of Legal Counsel and the Senate Intelligence Committee.”It would also compare the intelligence gathered through both standard and enhanced interrogation techniques. The CIA established a secure facility with its own computer network where Senate investigators eventually reviewed more than 6.2 million pages of relevant classified CIA documents. This arrangement would later lead to further delays following allegations that CIA employees had improperly accessed the senate investigators’ computer system.At the same time, Republican members of the committee withdrew from the investigation in September 2009 because they felt that an ongoing Justice Department probe would hobble the committee's investigators. Committee Republicans are expected to release their own response to the committee report.WHAT’S IN THE REPORT?Some of the report’s conclusions have leaked out over the past year, but committee members have provided significant insights through press releases or public statements to counter what they saw as foot dragging by the CIA. In April 2012, Committee Chair Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Senator Carl Levin, D-Mich., issued a press release saying the "enhanced interrogation techniques" had not provided the information that led to finding bin Laden as former CIA officials had claimed.Instead, the senators said that key information about the courier that eventually led the agency to find bin Laden’s compound in Abbotabad, Pakistan came from sources other than the CIA detainees. They also said that when EIT’s were used on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Faraj al-Libi to gather more information about the courier they provided “false and misleading information." And they said that the “the CIA detainee who provided the most significant information about the courier provided the information prior to being subjected to coercive interrogation techniques."By December 2012, the committee’s investigators had concluded their work and sought comments from the White House and the CIA. The CIA eventually provided a response in June 2013 in which Feinstein said the agency “disagrees and disputes important parts” of the committee report.WHAT’S SCANDALOUS?A secret 2004 CIA Inspector General report, made public in 2009, listed incidents early in the EIT program where CIA officers went beyond the authorized enhanced interrogation techniques. The report detailed how in some cases CIA officers used a power drill, mock executions and threats against children in efforts to get detainees to provide information.The committee’s report is expected to expand on the previously reported details of the harsh interrogation methods, as well as provide new details on other incidents. The report to be released Tuesday reportedly says that the CIA misled Congress and the White House about how well the enhanced interrogation techniques were working.An official familiar with the report’s contents says the it concludes the opposite, that the enhanced interrogation techniques produced zero actionable intelligence. The report appeared to be ready for release this past August, but the CIA requested further redactions to protect the identities of CIA officers cited in the report. White House Chief of Staff Denis McDonough became personally involved in talks with the committee to resolve the matter.

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President Obama Plays Comedian with Stephen Colbert

President Obama Plays Comedian with Stephen Colbert

Andrew Harrer-Pool/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) — When President Barack Obama wasn't defending his executive actions on immigration or his economic record to Stephen Colbert, he was discussing some of the more normal parts of being president -- leaving socks on the floor and having his wife and teenage daughters mock his big ears."When I go home, Michelle, Malia and Sasha give me a hard time," the president told Colbert. "They tease me mercilessly for my big ears or my stodgy suits."President Obama made his first in-person appearance on The Colbert Show at George Washington University on Monday, coming out a few minutes early to the surprise of the host. Colbert was about to begin "the Word," a regular feature in which he rants as snarky phrases appear for the audience.Instead, they traded places -- Obama sitting behind Colbert's desk as the host scurried off -- and the president gave the segment a more presidential name -- "the Decree" -- as he read the script intended for Colbert.The audience laughed as Obama said people in both parties like some parts of "Obamacare" while the text accompanying him read: "Everything but the 'Obama.'"During the interview, the president noted how powerful he felt sitting at Colbert's desk before discussing the midterms and the most recent jobs report."You've employed a lot of people -- mostly as secretary of defense," cracked Colbert, referencing the president's latest nomination for the post at the Pentagon."That's boosted our numbers a little bit," Obama replied.Colbert later questioned Obama about whether he exceeded his authority on immigration."When did you decide to burn the Constitution and become emperor?" he asked."Actually, Steve, everything that we have done is scrupulously within the law and has been done by previous Democratic and Republican presidents," Obama replied.The appearance by the president marked the final two weeks for the program on Comedy Central. Colbert will succeed David Letterman on CBS' Late Show next year.President Obama has appeared on the Colbert Report twice before -- once as president in 2009 and as a senator in 2008.

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