Top Stories for Wednesday, December 10, 2014

House Spending Bill Fully Funds Obamacare, Obama Amnesty

From The Washington Post, “What’s in the spending bill? We skim it so you don’t have to”: 

“AFFORDABLE CARE ACT:

The law is still funded, but there’s no new money for it. There’s also no new ACA-related funding for the Internal Revenue Service and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the two agencies most responsible for implementing the law. The bill also would cut the budget of the Independent Payment Advisory Board — what Republicans have called “the death panel” — by $10 million…

CAMPAIGN FINANCE:

The bill would dramatically expand the amount of money that wealthy political donors could inject into the national parties, drastically undercutting the 2002 landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance overhaul. Bottom line: A donor who gave the maximum $32,400 this year to the Democratic National Committee or Republican National Committee would be able to donate another $291,600 on top of that to the party’s additional arms — a total of $324,000, ten times the current limit. Read more on this here

IMMIGRATION:

The bill only funds the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees most immigration policy, until February. But negotiators gave new money for immigration programs at other federal agencies. There’s $948 million for the Department of Health and Human Service’s unaccompanied children program — an $80 million increase. The program provides health and education services to the young migrants. The department also gets $14 million to help school districts absorbing new immigrant students. And the State Department would get $260 million to assist Central American countries from where of the immigrant children are coming.”

Fallout Continues After Release of CIA Report

From The New York Times, “Report Portrays a Broken C.I.A. Devoted to a Failed Approach”: “

On Tuesday morning, the C.I.A. acknowledged problems in the early months of the program but suggested that they had been fixed. “The study as a whole leads the reader to believe that the management shortcomings that marked the initial months persisted throughout the program, which is historically inaccurate,” the agency said.

The Senate report is the most sweeping condemnation of the C.I.A. since the Church Committee, led by Senator Frank Church of Idaho, accused the agency in the 1970s of domestic spying, botched assassinations and giving LSD to unwitting subjects, among other misconduct. That report led to a series of new laws and restrictions on C.I.A. activities…

The report spends little time condemning torture on moral or legal grounds. Instead, it addresses mainly a practical question: Did torture accomplish anything of value? Looking at case after case, the report answers with an unqualified no.

In fact, it says, “C.I.A. officers regularly called into question whether the C.I.A.’s enhanced interrogation techniques were effective, assessing that the use of the techniques failed to elicit detainee cooperation or produce accurate intelligence.” Still, higher-ups ordered that the methods be continued and told Congress, the White House and journalists that they were having great success.”

From USA Today, Sen. Bob Kerrey: Partisan torture report fails America“: “I have participated in two extensive investigations into intelligence failures, once whenAldrich Ames was discovered to be spying for Russia after he had done substantial damage to our human intelligence collection capability and another following the 9/11 attacks. In both cases we were very critical of the practices of the intelligence agencies. In both cases we avoided partisan pressure to blame the opposing party. In both cases Congress made statutory changes and the agencies changed their policies. It didn’t make things perfect, but it did make them better.

In both of these efforts the committee staff examined documents and interviewed all of the individuals involved. The Senate’s Intelligence Committee staff chose to interview no one. Their rationale – that some officers were under investigation and could not be made available – is not persuasive. Most officers were never under investigation and for those who were, the process ended by 2012.

Fairness should dictate that the examination of documents alone do not eliminate the need for interviews conducted by the investigators. Isolated emails, memos and transcripts can look much different when there is no context or perspective provided by those who sent, received or recorded them.

It is important for all of us to remember how unprepared we were for the attacks of September 11, 2001 and how unprepared we were to do the things necessary to keep the country from being attacked again. There was no operating manual to guide the choices and decisions made by the men and women in charge of protecting us. I will continue to read the report to learn of the mistakes we apparently made. I do not need to read the report in full to know this: We have not been attacked since and for that I am very grateful.”

Obama Defends Executive Amnesty in Interview with Jorge Ramos