On Friday, an appeals court overturned a U.S. District Court decision last May that had declared that the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records was beyond the authorization of the law. The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit kicked the matter back to the lower court for additional deliberation.
The decision did not declare the NSA’s program, which was revealed by whistleblower Edward Snowden in 2013, to have been legal or constitutional. Rather, it focused on a technicality: a majority opinion that the plaintiffs in the case could not actually prove that the metadata program swept up their own phone records. Therefore, the plaintiffs, the court declared, did not have standing to sue.
“Plaintiffs claim to suffer injury from government collection of records from their telecommunications provider relating to their calls. But plaintiffs are subscribers of Verizon Wireless, not of Verizon Business Network Services, Inc.—the sole provider that the government has acknowledged targeting for bulk collection,” wrote Judge Stephen F. Williams.
“Today’s ruling is merely a procedural decision,” said Alexander Abdo, the American Civil Liberties Union attorney who argued against the program at the U.S. District Court. “Only one appeals court has weighed in on the merits of the program, and it ruled the government’s collection of Americans’ call records was not only unlawful but ‘unprecedented and unwarranted.’”
Despite Friday’s decision, the bulk collection program will end later this year in accordance with the USA Freedom Act, passed by Congress in June.
The NSA previously argued that its massive collection of telephony metadata was legal because the records met the legal standard of being “relevant to an authorized investigation.”
In the May decision, Judge Gerald E. Lynch described the government’s interpretation of the word “relevant” as “extremely generous” and “unprecedented and unwarranted,” saying that the program had serious constitutional concerns and was ultimately illegal. However, the court did not order the program’s closure, because Congress was due to debate on the USA Freedom Act within a month’s time.
The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court granted the NSA an extension through November to shutter the program, a provision which was included in the USA Freedom Act. After that the NSA will no longer be able to hoover up phone metadata without a warrant.
Therefore, the overturned ruling declaring the program illegal doesn’t have much practical effect.
But according to some civil liberties experts, it does say a lot about the power of the NSA to avoid scrutiny. Julian Sanchez, a senior fellow at the Cato Institute, called the ruling “a potent illustration of how excessive secrecy and stringent standing requirements effectively immunize intelligence programs from meaningful, adversarial constitutional review.”
Dorsey & Witney lawyer Robert Cattanach, a former trial attorney for the Department of Justice, points out that it will be practically impossible to force the NSA to disclose whether or not it did sweep up the plaintiff’s data. “The Government is almost certain to deny any access to the specifics of a classified program through discovery, creating the likelihood of a standoff between the plaintiffs and the government, with the court left to rule based on conjecture about what really happened,” he wrote in a statement sent to The Intercept.
Circuit Court Judge Janice Rogers Brown summarized the problem facing the court: “Excessive secrecy limits needed criticism and debate. Effective secrecy ensures the perpetuation of our institutions.”
So the decision did not necessarily indicate the NSA won, as media outlets today were quick to proclaim. It simply challenged a specific assertion, that the plaintiffs’ own metadata was collected — a matter of fact that will likely never be known for sure.
The post Court: We Can’t Rule on NSA Bulk Data Collection Because We Don’t Know Whose Data Was Collected appeared first on The Intercept.
The few remaining defenders of the Obama administration’s failure to prosecute the executives who helped cause the 2008 financial crisis argue that the bankers’ actions were unethical but not criminal. President Obama himself has made this claim: “Some of the most damaging behavior on Wall Street … wasn’t illegal,” he told Steve Kroft on 60 Minutes in December 2011.
The president might want to take this up with David Adier, who says he was victimized by Wells Fargo breaking and entering into his family’s home in Morris Township, New Jersey, and then committing property damage and theft. Burglary is a felony subject to prison time — if anybody but a bank does it.
Adier’s case is doubly disturbing because of what was taken: items his father retrieved from his family’s apartment in France before fleeing the Nazis in 1940, including a Kiddush cup, a Seder plate and a sewing machine used by his grandmother.
Adier has since filed suit against Wells Fargo. According to the complaint, Wells Fargo’s contractors deemed the house abandoned, despite explicit instructions that it was not. The house had been in Adier’s family for 40 years, Adier and his sister had grown up there, and Adier’s father had lived there until his death in August 2012. According to Adier, who lives 30 miles away in Bayonne, he missed two payments on the home’s mortgage over the next several months due to troubles with his small business. On November 29, 2012, Wells Fargo’s contractors illegally broke in for the first time.
“I feel like they ripped my family history from me,” said Adier. “This was the house I grew up in, where I had nothing but great family memories. They’ve taken away my life, my childhood, my sense of security.”
Banks claim they must secure abandoned properties to protect their investment and fulfill responsibilities under state laws. But the contractors frequently get things wrong, illegally ransacking properties still inhabited by homeowners, spurring hundreds of lawsuits. “It’s happening at exactly the same rate” now as during the previous seven years, argues Adier’s attorney, Josh Denbeaux.
Homeowners have been complaining for years about coming home to find that their keys no longer work. Contractors took the remains of Mimi Ash’s late husband. They took Angela Iannelli’s pet parrot, Luke. They took the American flag off a house belonging to Rick and Sherry Rought, who had bought it entirely in cash from Deutsche Bank after the bank had foreclosed on its previous owners. Nilly Mauck’s condo was trashed because contractors mixed up the number of the property they were supposed to inspect. Nancy Jacobini’s home was broken into while she sat on her couch; she locked herself in the bathroom and called 911. A year later, the same contractor broke in again.
“I’ve got this client, they are away from their home,” said Matt Weidner, a foreclosure defense attorney in St. Petersburg, Florida. “They come home to find a dude in there hacking their goddamn house apart. There’s a hammer sitting in the wall, like they said fuck it, we’re done for the day, we’ll just shove this in here.” The partially demolished home has sat that way for three years, amid litigation.
Denbeaux blames the business model. According to contracts he has acquired in discovery, banks pay contractors a small fee to do the drive-by inspection, but several hundred dollars to padlock the doors, and hundreds more for a trash-out. “Whether they do a lock-out or a trash-out is based on a report by day laborers,” Denbeaux said. “They know how to say the property is abandoned and make money.”
“I’ve had cases in which people had summer homes ransacked because they were ‘abandoned’ in January,” Denbeaux continued. “Have you tried surfing on the Jersey shore in January?”
Adier believes this kind of calculation led to the trash-out of his family’s home. David’s father, Henri Adier, escaped occupied France in 1940. The Nazis had sealed off apartments belonging to Jewish residents, and Henri and his family snuck back in to retrieve items of personal significance. “They made pains to keep the seal on,” David said. “They took what they could get and fled into the night.”
Henri Adier eventually took those heirlooms to Morris Township after World War II, where he got married and taught French to students at Morristown High School. Later in life, David’s mother contracted diabetes and Henri contracted Parkinson’s disease. David cared for his parents for 15 years, with his father finally passing away in August 2012.
The mortgage on the house was current at the time of Henri Adier’s death, and David was the executor of the estate. His business was significantly damaged during Hurricane Sandy at the end of October 2012, making it difficult for him to catch up on the two payments then in arrears.
Soon afterward, David’s sister found stickers on the property from the mortgage services company LPS, saying that inspectors believed the house to be abandoned, and if they didn’t hear from the residents they would “protect their interest in the property.”
According to the Adier lawsuit, David’s sister called LPS and received assurances that nobody would take action. Nevertheless, LPS broke into the house on November 29, 2012, changed the locks and “winterized” the property. “I was shocked to find out they had ransacked the property,” David said. “They opened every cabinet, every box and helped themselves to whatever they wanted.” They even stole the brass door-knocker on the front of the house, David alleged, along with the relics his father had spirited out of France. The damage ruined any chance to rent out the property and generate income.
During this period, when David contacted Wells Fargo, he was told he “was not the person on the deed.” According to David, Wells Fargo asked for the death certificate, then paperwork affirming that he was the executor of the estate. He didn’t get the right to talk to the bank until March 2013.
Tom Goyda, a spokesperson for Wells Fargo, claims that “the home was unlocked and in disarray” when contractors came to secure it. He added that Wells Fargo was unaware of any items removed from the home until mid-2014.
Under New Jersey law, mortgage companies are responsible for securing abandoned properties and can be held liable for code violations. Goyda said contractors performed exterior maintenance on the property to keep it to code. “While we hold our property preservation vendors and our own team members to high standards of honesty and integrity, and we take any claims like those being made in this case very seriously, we have found nothing to support the allegations made in the lawsuit.”
Adier countered that the house was not even in foreclosure when contractors first broke in — in fact, the foreclosure process did not begin until March 2013 and is still not complete. Even if a property is in foreclosure, without a court order banks do not have the right to enter if they are informed it is not abandoned. “They either need to own the property as a result of a sale, or they need a judge to say, even though this is not your property, you can go in,” said Denbeaux, Adier’s lawyer. “Wells Fargo never sought a court order in this case.”accused contractors of routinely disregarding signs of habitation and illegally breaking into homes. The inspector general called the practice of property preservation “largely unregulated” and riddled with fraud. The banking industry responded by promising stronger background checks of contractors. But the complaints have continued.
Neighbors informed the Adiers each time contractors were on the property. Morris Township police refused to investigate, calling it a “civil matter.” After years of what David Adier called a “cat-and-mouse game,” he filed suit in New Jersey Superior Court last month, seeking compensation for trespassing and negligence.
“It was a complete and utter violation,” David Adier said. “I devoted 15 years of my life dealing with my parents’ health needs. I thought I’d be able to get some peace. I’ve had no peace.”
The post When the Bank Robs You: Wells Fargo Contractors Allegedly Stole Family Heirlooms Rescued From Nazis appeared first on The Intercept.
Vor der Berliner Erstaufnahmestelle für Flüchtlinge beim Landesamt für Gesundheit und Soziales (LaGeSo) mangelt es an allem. Ohne unbezahlte freiwillige Helfer stünden wir vor einer humanitären Katastrophe -
Von THOMAS EIPELDAUER, 28. August 2015 -
Hunderte Menschen harren im Freien aus, Familien sitzen mit Rucksäcken und Taschen auf dem Boden, Hilfskräfte teilen Getränke aus. Bewacht von Securities warten Flüchtlinge auf Papiere, die sie dringend brauchen. Bisweilen kommt es zu Auseinandersetungen mit dem Sicherheitspersonal, pädagogische Betreuung für die Kinder, psychologische für traumatisierte Menschen gibt es kaum, es
Emails and financial documents released by the University of Kansas on Thursday reveal earmarked funding from Koch Industries to develop research used to lobby against the state renewable energy standard.
On November 12, 2013, Art Hall, the director of the university’s Center for Applied Economics, emailed Koch Industries’ Laura Hands to discuss a grant from a Koch-controlled foundation to fund research on the Renewable Portfolio Standard.
Hall is the former chief economist for Koch Companies Public Sector, the lobbying subsidiary of Koch Industries, the largest privately owned company in America with a significant stake in oil refining, pipelines, gas production and coal. Hands is the current community affairs director at Koch Companies Public Sector.
The Koch money was part of an ongoing project Hall described as an effort to develop “intellectual products” to be used “as a tool in economic policy debates.” Hall’s center also provides special classes to teach about the virtues of capitalism. Koch-controlled foundations approved $40,000 for work that included the renewable energy standard, as well as at least $250,000 to the center in 2008 and $100,000 to the center in 2009.
Following his grant request, Hall testified before the Kansas legislature in 2014 in favor of repealing the state renewable energy portfolio, which calls for major utility companies to use an increasing ratio of renewable energy such as wind and solar.
The emails and financial documents were released in response to a Kansas Open Records Act request filed by KU student Schuyler Kraus, the president of Students for a Sustainable Future.
Hall also helped craft unprecedented tax cuts signed into law by Gov. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., and backed by Koch’s local political network. The tax cuts have been viewed roundly as a historic flop, resulting in a downgrade of the state bond rating and drastic education cuts that forced public schools to close early this year. Critics argue that the tax cut and ensuing budget chaos may have hurt employment as border states such as Missouri are quickly outpacing Kansas on job growth.
President Barack Obama recently criticized Koch Industries owners Charles and David Koch, scolding the billionaires for “pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards.” In response, Charles Koch said he is opposed to “crony capitalism” in all forms.
Though the Koch Industries chief executive has said that he opposes corporate subsidies or mandates of any kind, the Koch political network has carefully singled out renewable energy while working to preserve government support for fossil fuels. Groups founded and funded by the Koch political network regard repealing oil and gas subsidies as a “tax hike” while deriding renewable energy subsidies as “a textbook case of corporate welfare.” Moreover, Koch’s lobbying campaign to distort climate science and prevent government action on greenhouse gas emissions transfers costs from the company, a major polluter, to the public.
The post Emails Show Koch Industries Backed Effort to Undermine Renewable Energy in Kansas appeared first on The Intercept.
Von SEBASTIAN RANGE, 27. August 2015 -
Laut offiziellen Zahlen war die Arbeitslosenquote in Deutschland in den letzten zwanzig Jahren nie so niedrig wie heute. Für 2015 wird mit einer neuen Rekordbeschäftigung gerechnet. Fast 43 Millionen Menschen werden nach Einschätzung der Bundesregierung in diesem Jahr in Deutschland erwerbstätig sein.
Dennoch ist die Mittelschicht in den vergangenen zwanzig Jahren deutlich geschrumpft, wie nun eine Studie – „Die Mittelschicht in Deutschland unter Druck“ – des Instituts Arbeit und Qualifikation der Universität Duisburg-Essen feststellt. (1)
Nach ihrem Markteinkommen bemessen hat sich die Zahl der Haushalte mit mittlerem Einkommen von 56 Prozent im Jahr 1992 auf 48
After investing a sizable fortune into building a political machine that now rivals the size and budgets of both major political parties, the conservative billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch are seeing some of their top operatives take jobs with the presidential campaign of Donald Trump.
The fact that many of Trump’s political positions are at odds with those of the Koch brothers does not seem to be a factor.
Take Corey Lewandowski, Trump’s campaign manager, who spent many years of his career working for the Koch political network, first as an assistant at the Koch-led group Citizens for a Sound Economy in 1997 and from 2008 through earlier this year as a senior staff member to the Koch’s primary grassroots group, Americans for Prosperity. Over the last seven years, Lewandowski helped the Koch network organize Tea Party events and get-out-the-vote efforts for Republican candidates for office.
Alan Cobb, a strategic consultant for Trump, is the former director of Kansas public affairs for Koch Industries and also worked for years as a vice president at Americans for Prosperity.
Trump is being counseled by lawyer Donald F. McGahn, the former Federal Election Commission chair who just months ago represented the Koch political network during hearings with the FEC. McGahn is listed as affiliated with Freedom Partners Action Fund, the Super PAC set up by the Koch brothers and their lobbyists.
In New Hampshire, Trump’s state director is Matt Ciepielowski, the former New Hampshire state field director for Americans for Prosperity. As National Journal reported, as Trump works to develop a team to win the New Hampshire primary, he has hired multiple AFP staff, and even leased a campaign headquarters in the same office building as AFP’s office in Manchester.
Some have suggested that Koch operatives have abandoned the industrialist billionaires simply for a higher paycheck. As the director of voter registration with Americans for Prosperity, Lewandowski made $153,162, according to the last available nonprofit disclosure made public, for 2013. Now as a Trump staffer, Lewandowski is making $20,000 a month — or $240,000 a year. As the Wall Street Journal reported, that is “about 45% more than 2012 GOP nominee and multimillionaire Mitt Romney paid his senior staffers.”
Not long ago, Trump maintained friendly relations with the Koch network. He was an invited speaker at the Americans for Prosperity “Freedom Summit” in April 2014. But as Trump began outpolling his Republican rivals, many of whom enjoy support from the Koch brothers, the real estate mogul appears to have fallen out of favor with the Koch brothers.
Trump was not invited to the private fundraiser hosted by the Koch brothers last month at a retreat in Southern California, nor was he invited to the Americans for Prosperity “Defending the Dream” summit last weekend in Ohio. As many of Trump’s rivals headed to the California fundraiser, Trump tweeted: “I wish good luck to all of the Republican candidates that traveled to California to beg for money etc. from the Koch Brothers. Puppets?”
The post Political Operatives Abandon Koch Network For Donald Trump appeared first on The Intercept.