Category Archives: Washington

CT Delegation Reacts: Give Snowden Clemency?

by Categorized: 2014 Election, Chris Murphy, Congress, Democrats, Elizabeth Esty, John B. Larson, John Larson, D, President Obama, Richard Blumenthal, Rosa DeLauro, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Washington Date:

A majority of the members of Connecticut\’s congressional delegation say that Edward Snowden should not be given clemency.

This week, a New York Times editorial called for clemency and whistleblower status for Snowden, a former government contractor who has leaked detailed information about the National Security Agency\’s extensive domestic and international spying.

Sen. Chris Murphy and Sen. Richard Blumenthal, along with Rep. Elizabeth Esty, Rep. Joe Courtney, Rep. Rosa DeLauro, Rep. Jim Himes and Rep. John Larson all say Snowden must face felony charges. (I am still waiting for a response from Rep. John Larson.)

“Edward Snowden should come back to the United States and be held accountable for his actions,\’\’ Murphy said in a statement released by his office Friday. \”If Snowden truly cared about exposing illegal activity, he should have gone through proper channels using statutory whistleblower protections.  Instead, he stole untold amounts of sensitive, classified information, fled to China and Russia, and made these secrets available to countries with adversarial interests toward the United States.  Snowden\’s revelations have touched off an important debate, but this fact does not absolve him from responsibility for his crimes, especially when he had other avenues through which to raise these issues.”

But U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney suggested that a plea bargain might be a good idea. His spokesperson, Liz Donovan, said:

Congressman Courtney has consistently voted against giving sweeping powers to the NSA—including changes that  weakened FISA warrant standards in 2007 and extension of the Patriot Act without reform—for precisely the reasons that the Snowden revelations have highlighted. Congressman Courtney believes in the integrity America’s courts, and given that Mr. Snowden has been charged by federal prosecutors,  he should return to the U.S., where he can present an argument for his innocence or mitigating circumstances. Given the unique nature of this case, the Justice Department should make a bona fide attempt to negotiate a balanced path forward, which may include a plea bargain process that could reduce the severity of any punishment.

Congressman Courtney continues to support bipartisan efforts to reform our intelligence programs to increase oversight and accountability, strengthen protections for whistleblowers, and rebalance our security activities with the rights afforded to American citizens under the constitution. Continue reading

Connecticut Loses In Race To The Top Funding

by Categorized: Education, Washington Date:

Connecticut has again failed to win federal school reform funds under the U.S. Department of Education’s Race to the Top grant program.

On Thursday, Sec. of Education Arne Duncan announced that six more states – Georgia, Kentucky, Michigan, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Vermont – were awarded $280 million in grants from the 2013 Race to the Top-Early Learning Challenge. The money will go to improving preschool and other early-education programs in these states. The competition began in 2011 and there have been two previous rounds of funding.


Connecticut Lawyer Working To Free Guantanamo Prisoners

by Categorized: President Obama, Washington Date:

Last summer, Jenny Wilson wrote about about a Connecticut lawyer, J. Wells Dixon (below at right), working to free prisoners detained at Guantanamo:

\"guantanamoOne of Dixon\’s clients, a 46-year-old Algerian citizen named Djamel Ameziane, began his hunger strike in early February and as of the middle of May had lost 60 pounds — a drop Dixon estimated would put him shy of 100 pounds.
    According to government documents, Ameziane was raised and educated in Algeria, but fled the country in the early \’90s to escape civil war. After living in Austria for three years, he sought political asylum in Canada. His application was denied in 2000 and he moved to Afghanistan, where he stayed in close proximity \"guantanamoto Taliban intelligence headquarters. 
    … \”I have only drank water for a period of 11 days,\” Ameziane told Dixon in a letter dated April 25. Guards are not force-feeding Ameziane, but have threatened to do so. He is in single cell isolation, and hasn\’t spoken to another prisoner in weeks.

In Tuesday\’s New York Times, Dixon said that Ameziane is back in Algreria:

Meanwhile, the Algerian government said Monday that two Algerian detainees who were involuntarily repatriated this month have been released after an evaluation period. Lawyers for the men had raised concerns that they would be mistreated by the government there.

J. Wells Dixon, a lawyer with the Center for Constitutional Rights, which represented one of the men, Djamel Ameziane, said he had heard that his client had been released and that he was ill. He said he was seeking more information.


UPDATED: Himes Targetted By Anti-Corruption Group

by Categorized: 2014 Election, U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, Washington Date:

A Northampton-based group that takes aim at political corruption is out with an ambush video of U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, calling him \”everything that is wrong with Congress today.\” The nonpartisan group Represent.Us slams Himes for his support of H.R. 992, which amends sections of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act. Citing the New York Times, the group says that critical language in the bill was written by CitiGroup lobbyists. CitiGroup is also a leading contributor to Rep. Himes.

H.R. 992, approved by the House, has not been taken up by the Senate.

Elizabeth Kerr, communications director for Rep. Himes, sent this response Wednesday afternoon when I asked her for a comment about the video:

This political stunt is an example of overheated, polarizing politics making it difficult for problem-solving legislators to make progress on the complicated issues of the day. This particular piece of bipartisan legislation was a carefully balanced compromise designed to ensure businesses can protect their bottom lines against price fluctuations while keeping the dangerous derivatives that helped cause the 2008 crash out of federally insured banks. Since first taking office, Jim has worked to eliminate even the possibility of conflicts of interest, including going well above existing requirements and selling his personal holdings in companies under the oversight of the Financial Services Committee.

Mansur Gidfar, a spokesman for the group, said they were \”trying to reframe the issue of money in politics … What we took issue with is … what Jim Himes did is symptomatic of a larger systemic problem.\”

\”It\’s corruption by any other name. You have a massive exchange of money … in return for a favorable policy outcome.\”


Sen. Murphy Headed To Berlin Next Week

by Categorized: Chris Murphy, Washington, White House Date:

Chris Murphy will depart for Europe next week on a relationship-mending mission in the wake of revelations about U.S. snooping on world leaders.

\"berlin\"Murphy, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on European Affairs, will be accompanied by U.S. Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart and U.S. Rep. Gregory Meeks for meetings with European leaders in Berlin and Brussels.

Here\’s how he sees the trip and the possibly awkward meetings next week:

Over the last several months, our European allies have raised legitimate concerns about the nature and scope of U.S. intelligence programs, and I agree that at times, U.S. surveillance programs have not been conducted with the appropriate restraint and security, both in the United States and in Europe. However, the importance of the ties between our countries goes far beyond these issues. My goal for these meetings will be to help cement the overall relationship between the United States and Europe as we discuss trade and investment negotiations, counter-terrorism cooperation, and other critical issues in the wake of these allegations.




How Life Magazine Got The Famed Zapruder Film of JFK\’s Assassination

by Categorized: Washington Date:

When three shots rang out 50 years ago at Dealey Plaza in Dallas, a journalist named Dick Stolley had never heard of Abraham Zapruder. But their lives suddenly became entwined that day, and it was never the same.

Stolley, a former Greenwich resident who later helped create People magazine, was working for Life magazine in Los Angeles when he heard a colleague shouting the news about President John F. Kennedy’s assassination. He immediately flew to Dallas, where reporters were converging from around the country for one of the most shocking stories in American history.

Amid the chaos, Stolley received a phone call from a part-time LIFE reporter with a third-hand account that a local man might have a homemade film of the infamous shooting. The reporter did not know the spelling of the name but said it sounded something like “Zapruder.’’

Having never been in Dallas, Stolley pulled out the local telephone book and started searching for last names starting with Z. He kept dialing the number every 15 minutes and eventually reached an exhausted Abraham Zapruder. The rest is history. Stolley cut a deal with the garment maker, and Life eventually paid $150,000 for the 26-second film – an incredible sum in 1963 that few others could match.

Now 85, Stolley recalled the details of his place in history in a telephone interview from his home in New Mexico. Having intensely studied and written about the assassination over five decades, Stolley has developed a set of conclusions – including that assassin Lee Harvey Oswald acted alone.

“I think there was a single shooter, and I do not think there was any conspiracy before or after,’’ Stolley said. “The Zapruder film is the best evidence for the single shooter theory that I hold.’’ Continue reading

Food Stamp Showdown Looms

by Categorized: Chris Murphy, Richard Blumenthal, Washington Date:

From Rose Lichtenfels, our intern from Trinity College:

Washington’s next political cliff could mean that up to 47 million Americans will have a harder time getting food on the table .

Members of the Senate and House will meet Wednesday to begin negotiations over the latest versions of the farm bill, which include funding for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, more commonly known as food stamp or SNAP benefits.

Large cuts in federal food aid program are scheduled to take effect Nov. 1st when a temporary boost from Obama’s 2009 Recovery Act expires. Friday’s expiration date will automatically cut nearly $5 billion from SNAP spending over the next year. A House-approved plan would increase SNAP cuts and slash $40 billion from the program.

“The truth of the food stamp program is this: it barely provides enough to keep the hunger pangs away for half the day, and the vast majority of people who use the program only need it temporarily,’’ said U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, who has joined Sen. Richard Blumenthal and 37 other colleagues to oppose SNAP cuts.

According to the USDA, the $80 billion per year SNAP program provides nutritional aid to roughly 14 percent of all U.S. households.  In 2012, 403,466 Connecticut residents received an average monthly SNAP benefit of $143.90.

In the event that Congress fails to meet its January 1st deadline for a new Farm Bill, parts of federal agricultural policy will start reverting back to 1940’s era policies.

Cheney, Lieberman At Waterboarding Laugh-In

by Categorized: Joe Lieberman, Washington Date:

According to Buzzfeed, former U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman joined the hilarity this week at a roast of former Vice President Dick Cheney:

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman “said something to the effect that it’s nice that we’re all here at the Plaza instead of in cages after some war crimes trial,” recalled one person who was there.

There\’s more here from the Peter Baker of the New York Times on the uneasy relationship between W and Cheney.