Sen. Dianne Feinstein defends NSA and need for intelligence gathering

Senate Votes On Nomination Of Robert Wilkins For US Circuit Judge In DC

Sen. Dianne Feinstein defends NSA and need for intelligence gathering.

By Seema Mehta

February 19, 201410:19 p.m.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) offered a full-throated defense of the government’s collection of data on billions of American phone calls, saying Wednesday that the National Security Agency’s practices have safeguarded the nation without trampling on civil liberties.

“What keeps me up at night, candidly, is another attack against the United States. And I see enough of the threat stream to know that is possible,” Feinstein said at a Pacific Council on International Policy dinner in Century City.

She pointed to a warning Wednesday about potential bombs hidden in the shoes of passengers on flights bound for the United States.

“But the way we prevent another attack – and this is tricky – is intelligence,” she said. “You have to know what’s going to happen, because it’s too late otherwise.”

Feinstein’s firm support for the NSA’s tracking program has divided some of her most ardent backers, and in recent months her popularity in California has plunged to a historic low.

During the hourlong question-and-answer session, several people questioned Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, about the boundaries of intelligence gathering and about NSA contractor Edward Snowden, who used his position to collect classified information about NSA activities that he has since made public.

Snowden, Feinstein said, had other options to serve as a whistle-blower, such as turning to her or others in the government, instead of releasing the information and fleeing to Russia. And Americans already see far more intrusion into their lives from commercial sources, she said, noting that her daughter emailed a contractor about a bathroom faucet and then started receiving messages from other contractors.

“There are all kinds of things that are going on. And for some reason, the fear of our government for a bona fide reason, which is to prevent a terrorist attack, raising this kind of concern, when there are only 22 people in our country who have access to this database and every one of them is vetted,” she said.

She defended the oversight of the program, rejecting a suggestion recently made by PresidentObama that the data be held by telecommunications firms, as well as legislation introduced Tuesday by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) for a special committee to investigate the NSA. That, she said, would duplicate existing panels.

“That’s what we do,” Feinstein said in an interview.

At the dinner, Feinstein, recalling a recent emotional visit to the 9/11 memorial in New York, said she had only one goal: “I am really dedicated to doing whatever I can, within the law, to see that this never happens again in this country,” she said to applause.

Feinstein spoke to about 120 people dining on sea bass and risotto, a mix of the political (former Los Angeles City Councilwoman Roz Wyman, former U.S. Commerce Secretary Mickey Kantor and congressional candidate Wendy Greuel) and Hollywood (studio officials, actress Morgan Fairchild).

The speech largely focused on foreign policy. Feinstein said the nation must have a “major” counter-terrorism effort in Syria and, along with other nations, must take action against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

“How we do this, I can’t say,” she said. “I don’t think we can continue to sit and see what’s happening in Syria.”

Feinstein singled out Secretary of State John F. Kerry for praise.

“I don’t know anyone who has been more mission-directed as secretary of State than John Kerry,” she said.

In the interview, she said that was not a comparison to former Secretary of State and potential presidential candidate Hillary Rodham Clinton.

“I think he’s different,” Feinstein said. “Hillary did a great deal, I think, in carrying the American mission abroad in the most positive way — to women, to minorities, to everybody. I think she’s just wonderful. What John has been doing is concentrating on specifics and going after them…. He’s got his hands on and he is indefatigable.”

The President Who Has Done the Most Damage.

Dennis Prager

The President Who Has Done the Most Damage.

By Dennis Prager – October 29, 2013

I have been broadcasting for 31 years and writing for longer than that. I do not recall ever saying on radio or in print that a president is doing lasting damage to our country. I did not like the presidencies of Jimmy Carter (the last Democrat I voted for) or Bill Clinton. Nor did I care for the “compassionate conservatism” of George W. Bush. In modern political parlance “compassionate” is a euphemism for ever-expanding government.

But I have never written or broadcast that our country was being seriously damaged by a president. So it is with great sadness that I write that President Barack Obama has done and continues to do major damage to America. The only question is whether this can ever be undone.

This is equally true domestically and internationally.

Domestically, his policies have gravely impacted the American economy.

He has overseen the weakest recovery from a recession in modern American history.

He has mired the country in unprecedented levels of debt: about $6.5 trillion dollars in five years (this after calling his predecessor “unpatriotic” for adding nearly $5 trillion in eight years).

He has fashioned a country in which more Americans now receive government aid — means-tested, let alone non-means tested — than work full-time.

He has no method of paying for this debt other than printing more money — thereby surreptitiously taxing everyone through inflation, including the poor he claims to be helping, and cheapening the dollar to the point that some countries are talking another reserve currency — and saddling the next generations with enormous debts.

With his 2,500-page Affordable Care Act, he has made it impossible for hundreds of thousands, soon millions, of Americans to keep their individual or employee-sponsored group health insurance; he has stymied American medical innovation with an utterly destructive tax on medical devices; and he has caused hundreds of thousands of workers to lose full-time jobs because of the health care costs imposed by Obamacare on employers.

His Internal Revenue Service used its unparalleled power to stymie political dissent. No one has been held accountable.

His ambassador to Libya and three other Americans were murdered by terrorists in Benghazi, Libya. No one has been blamed. The only blame the Obama administration has leveled was on a video maker in California who had nothing to do with the assault.

In this president’s White House, the buck stops nowhere.

Among presidents in modern American history, he has also been a uniquely divisive force. It began with his forcing Obamacare through Congress — the only major legislation in American history to be passed with no votes from the opposition party.

Though he has had a unique opportunity to do so, he has not only not helped heal racial tensions, he has exacerbated them. His intrusions into the Trayvon Martin affair (“If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon”) and into the confrontation between a white police officer and a black Harvard professor (the police “acted stupidly”) were unwarranted, irresponsible, demagogic and, most of all, divisive.

He should have been reassuring black Americans that America is in fact the least racist country in the world — something he should know as well anybody, having been raised only by whites and being the first black elected the leader of a white-majority nation. Instead, he echoed the inflammatory speech of professional race-baiters such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson.

He has also divided the country by economic class, using classic Marxist language against “the rich” and “corporate profits.”

Regarding America in the world, he has been, if possible, even more damaging. The United States is at its weakest, has fewer allies, and has less military and diplomatic influence than at any time since before World War I.

One wonders if there is a remaining ally nation that trusts him. And worse, no American enemy fears him. If you are a free movement (the democratic Iranian and Syrian oppositions) or a free country (Israel), you have little or no reason to believe that you have a steadfast ally in the United States.

Even non-democratic allies no longer trust America. Barack Obama has alienated our most important and longest standing Arab allies, Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Both the anti-Muslim Brotherhood and the anti-Iran Arab states have lost respect for him.

And his complete withdrawal of American troops from Iraq has left that country with weekly bloodbaths.

Virtually nothing Barack Obama has done has left America or the world better since he became president. Nearly everything he has touched has been made worse.

He did, however, promise before the 2008 election that “We are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America.” That is the one promise he has kept.

Mozilla’s Lightbeam tool will expose who is looking over your shoulder on the web.

Mozilla’s Lightbeam tool will expose who is looking over your shoulder on the web

THURSDAY 24 OCTOBER 2013

Just who is looking over your shoulder when you browse the Internet? Tomorrow, web users will be given a new tool to shine a light on the commercial organisations which track your every movement online.

Lightbeam, a download produced by Mozilla, the US free software community behind the popular Firefox browser, claims to be a “watershed” moment in the battle for web transparency.

Everyone who browses the Internet leaves a digital trail used by advertisers to discover what your interests are.

Users who activate Lightbeam will be able to see a real-time visualisation of every site they visit and every third-party that is active on those sites, including commercial organisations which might potentially be sharing your data.

Mozilla wants users who install the Lightbeam add-on to Firefox, to crowd-source their data, to produce the first “big picture” view of web tracking, revealing which third-parties are most active.

Lightbeam promises a “Wizard of Oz” moment for the web, “where users collectively provide a way to pull back the curtains to see its inner workings,” Mozilla claimed.

Mark Surman, Mozilla’s executive director, said: “It’s a stake in the ground in terms of letting people know the ways they are being tracked. At Mozilla, we believe everyone should be in control of their user data and privacy and we want people to make informed decisions about their Web experience.”

Mozilla already offers users the ability to disable “cookies” – small files that download from websites onto a computer, allowing advertisers to target users based on their online activity – an option taken up by 18 per cent of UK Firefox users.

Lightbeam will reveal the source of the third-party adverts, scripts and images stored on a web page which are linked to servers in other domains. An expanding graph visualises the interactions between the sites a user intentionally visits and the third parties which may not be welcome.

Mozilla has come under “tremendous pressure” from trade bodies over its mission to bring transparency to the web, said Alex Fowler, the company’s Privacy Officer.

The software company said it was responding to increased privacy concerns following the revelation that the US National Security Agency (NSA) had tapped directly into the servers of Internet firms including Facebook, to track online communication in a surveillance programme.

Lightbeam reveals the source of third-party advertsLightbeam reveals the source of third-party adverts

Firefox released a security upgrade after it emerged that the NSA was exploiting vulnerabilities in the browser to gain access to computers using Tor, a sophisticated anonymity tool.

But Mozilla insisted that Lightbeam itself will not compromise the privacy of users who agree to upload and share data. Lightbeam will not log IP addresses, the information will be aggregated anonymously and the software can be uninstalled, Mr Surman promised.

Lightbeam initially will only be available for desktop browsers. Apple has reportedly rejected from its store apps by developers which incorporate “cookie tracking” technology. “The whole mobile environment is closed,” Mr Surman said. “You have to go through Google and Apple for apps.”

Mozilla, which is developing its own tablet, Mr Surman disclosed, is hosting its UK Mozfest this weekend, a brain-storming “hack”, attended by 1,400 people.

Mr Surman said: “Our focus in on building a web based on openness and transparency. Our dream is a world where people know more about how the web works and take control of their lives online. We need a posse of people to get involved and make that happen.”

He accepted that some cookies can help consumers navigate sites by providing content relevant to the user but said it was important that tracking happens with a person’s knowledge.

Lightbeam is released ahead of “Stop Watching Us,” a “rally against mass surveillance” in response to the Snowden revelations, which will be held in Washington D.C. on Saturday.

Saudi Arabia severs diplomatic ties with US over response to conflict in Syria

Saudi Arabia severs diplomatic ties with US over response to conflict in Syria

PUBLISHED: 19:27 EST, 22 October 2013 | UPDATED: 19:27 EST, 22 October 2013

Upset at President Barack Obama’s policies on Iran and Syria, members of Saudi Arabia’s ruling family are threatening a rift with the United States that could take the alliance between Washington and the kingdom to its lowest point in years.

Saudi Arabia’s intelligence chief is vowing that the kingdom will make a ‘major shift’ in relations with the United States to protest perceived American inaction over Syria’s civil war as well as recent U.S. overtures to Iran, a source close to Saudi policy said on Tuesday.

Prince Bandar bin Sultan told European diplomats that the United States had failed to act effectively against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was growing closer to Tehran, and had failed to back Saudi support for Bahrain when it crushed an anti-government revolt in 2011, the source said.

'Major change': Prince Bandar Bin Sultan said the kingdom will make a ‘Major change’: Prince Bandar Bin Sultan said the kingdom will make a “major shift” in relations with the United States

‘The shift away from the U.S. is a major one,’ the source close to Saudi policy said. ‘Saudi doesn’t want to find itself any longer in a situation where it is dependent.’

It was not immediately clear whether the reported statements by Prince Bandar, who was the Saudi ambassador to Washington for 22 years, had the full backing of King Abdullah.

The growing breach between the United States and Saudi Arabia was also on display in Washington, where another senior Saudi prince criticized Obama’s Middle East policies, accusing him of ‘dithering’ on Syria and Israeli-Palestinian peace.

In unusually blunt public remarks, Prince Turki al-Faisal called Obama’s policies in Syria ‘lamentable’ and ridiculed a U.S.-Russian deal to eliminate Assad’s chemical weapons. He suggested it was a ruse to let Obama avoid military action in Syria.

‘The current charade of international control over Bashar’s chemical arsenal would be funny if it were not so blatantly perfidious. And designed not only to give Mr. Obama an opportunity to back down (from military strikes), but also to help Assad to butcher his people,’ said Prince Turki, a member of the Saudi royal family and former director of Saudi intelligence.

Inaction: The Saudis say they are getting upset by President Obama's inaction in dealing with the conflict in SyriaInaction: The Saudis say they are getting upset by President Obama’s inaction in dealing with the conflict in Syria

The United States and Saudi Arabia have been allies since the kingdom was declared in 1932, giving Riyadh a powerful military protector and Washington secure oil supplies.

The Saudi criticism came days after the 40th anniversary of the October 1973 Arab oil embargo imposed to punish the West for supporting Israel in the Yom Kippur war.

That was one of the low points in U.S.-Saudi ties, which were also badly shaken by the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. Most of the 9/11 hijackers were Saudi nationals.

Saudi Arabia gave a clear sign of its displeasure over Obama’s foreign policy last week when it rejected a coveted two-year term on the U.N. Security Council in a display of anger over the failure of the international community to end the war in Syria and act on other Middle East issues.

Prince Turki indicated that Saudi Arabia will not reverse that decision, which he said was a result of the Security Council’s failure to stop Assad and implement its own decision on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Picking sides: Russian President Vladimir Putin, seen here with bin Sultan, has sided with the Syrian government in the conflictPicking sides: Russian President Vladimir Putin, seen here with bin Sultan, has sided with the Syrian government in the conflict

‘There is nothing whimsical about the decision to forego membership of the Security Council. It is based on the ineffectual experience of that body,’ he said in a speech to the Washington-based National Council on U.S.-Arab Relations.

In London, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he discussed Riyadh’s concerns when he met Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal in Paris on Monday.

Kerry said he told the Saudi minister no deal with Iran was better than a bad deal. ‘I have great confidence that the United States and Saudi Arabia will continue to be the close and important friends and allies that we have been,’ Kerry told reporters.

Prince Bandar is seen as a foreign policy hawk, especially on Iran. The Sunni Muslim kingdom’s rivalry with Shi’ite Iran, an ally of Syria, has amplified sectarian tensions across the Middle East.

A son of the late defense minister and crown prince, Prince Sultan, and a protégé of the late King Fahd, he fell from favor with King Abdullah after clashing on foreign policy in 2005.

But he was called in from the cold last year with a mandate to bring down Assad, diplomats in the Gulf say. Over the past year, he has led Saudi efforts to bring arms and other aid to Syrian rebels.

‘Prince Bandar told diplomats that he plans to limit interaction with the U.S.,’ the source close to Saudi policy said.

Secretary of State John Kerry says he's confident the U.S. will continue to have a good relationship with Saudi ArabiaSecretary of State John Kerry says he’s confident the U.S. will continue to have a good relationship with Saudi Arabia

This happens after the U.S. failed to take any effective action on Syria and Palestine. Relations with the U.S. have been deteriorating for a while, as Saudi feels that the U.S. is growing closer with Iran and the U.S. also failed to support Saudi during the Bahrain uprising,” the source said.

The source declined to provide more details of Bandar’s talks with the diplomats, which took place in the past few days.

But he suggested that the planned change in ties between the energy superpower and the United States would have wide-ranging consequences, including on arms purchases and oil sales.

Saudi Arabia, the world’s biggest oil exporter, ploughs much of its earnings back into U.S. assets. Most of the Saudi central bank’s net foreign assets of $690 billion are thought to be denominated in dollars, much of them in U.S. Treasury bonds.

‘All options are on the table now, and for sure there will be some impact,’ the Saudi source said.

He said there would be no further coordination with the United States over the war in Syria, where the Saudis have armed and financed rebel groups fighting Assad.

The kingdom has informed the United States of its actions in Syria, and diplomats say it has respected U.S. requests not to supply the groups with advanced weaponry that the West fears could fall into the hands of al Qaeda-aligned groups.

Saudi intelligence chief Prince Turki Al Faisal also is outraged the international community has let the war continue in SyriaSaudi intelligence chief Prince Turki Al Faisal also is outraged the international community has let the war continue in Syria

Saudi anger boiled over after Washington refrained from military strikes in response to a poison gas attack in Damascus in August when Assad agreed to give up his chemical weapons arsenal.

Representative Chris Van Hollen, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives’ Democratic leadership, told Reuters’ Washington Summit on Tuesday that the Saudi moves were intended to pressure Obama to take action in Syria.

‘We know their game. They’re trying to send a signal that we should all get involved militarily in Syria, and I think that would be a big mistake to get in the middle of the Syrian civil war,’ Van Hollen said.

‘And the Saudis should start by stopping their funding of the al Qaeda-related groups in Syria. In addition to the fact that it’s a country that doesn’t allow women to drive,’ said Van Hollen, who is close to Obama on domestic issues in Congress but is less influential on foreign policy.

Saudi Arabia is concerned about signs of a tentative reconciliation between Washington and Tehran, something Riyadh fears may lead to a ‘grand bargain’ on the Iranian nuclear program that would leave Riyadh at a disadvantage.

Prince Turki expressed doubt that Obama would succeed in what he called an ‘open arms approach’ to Iran, which he accused of meddling in Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Bahrain.

‘We Saudis observe President Obama’s efforts in this regard. The road ahead is arduous,’ he said. ‘Whether (Iranian President Hassan) Rouhani will succeed in steering Iran toward sensible policies is already contested in Iran. The forces of darkness in Qom and Tehran are well entrenched.’

The U.N. Security Council has been paralyzed over the 31-month-old Syria conflict, with permanent members Russia and China repeatedly blocking measures to condemn Assad.

Saudi Arabia backs Assad’s mostly Sunni rebel foes. The Syrian leader, whose Alawite sect is derived from Shi’ite Islam, has support from Iran and the armed Lebanese Shi’ite movement Hezbollah. The Syrian leader denounces the insurgents as al Qaeda-linked groups backed by Sunni-ruled states.

In Bahrain, home of the U.S. Fifth Fleet, a simmering pro-democracy revolt by its Shi’ite majority has prompted calls by some in Washington for U.S. ships to be based elsewhere.

Many U.S. economic interests in Saudi Arabia involve government contracts in defense, other security sectors, health care, education, information technology and construction.

Poll: Obama approval drops to 43%

CBS NEWS/ September 25, 2013, 6:30 PM

Ghost blog insert

Poll: Obama approval drops to 43%

By Sarah Dutton, Jennifer De Pinto, Anthony Salvanto and Fred Backus

President Obama’s job approval rating is just 43 percent now, down slightly fromearlier this month and the lowest since March 2012. Forty-nine percent disapprove, the highest it has been in two years.

His approval rating among women has dropped since earlier in September, from 49 percent to 43 percent now.

Positive assessments of the president’s handling of the economy has also dropped five points in the last two weeks, to 41 percent now. Just 40 percent approve of his handling of foreign policy, while 49 percent disapprove – the highest disapproval he has ever received on this measure.

This poll finds an uptick in evaluations of President Obama’s handling of the situation in Syria since the announcement of a plan to eradicate Syria’s chemical weapons; still, a majority disapproves of that as well.

Personal evaluations of the president are also down. Thirty percent say he cares a lot about people like themselves – the lowest level measured since he took office.

Despite the other setbacks for the president in this poll, a majority of Americans (58 percent) see him as a strong leader; those views have remained consistent for a few years, but are substantially lower than in the early years of his presidency.

Congress and the President: Strengths and Weaknesses

In his dealings with Congress in general and on key issues, the president fares better. He receives credit from about half of Americans for reaching across the aisle and trying to work with Republicans in Congress – but that represents a drop from 60 percent in January 2012.

However, far fewer Americans see Republicans in Congress reciprocating. Just 23 percent say they are trying to work with the president, and 70 percent say they are not.

And on some key issues, the President holds an advantage over the Republicans in Congress; more say they trust him to handle the economy (47-33 percent), health care (45-40 percent) and the budget deficit (44-38 percent).

Also, the policies of the Republicans in Congress are widely viewed as favoring the interests of the rich (65 percent), while a quarter of Americans say the same for those of the Obama administration. A quarter also says the administration’s policies favor the middle class.

Views of Congress

Most Americans disapprove of the job both Republicans and Democrats in Congress are doing overall, but Republicans receive more criticism. Just 21 percent now approve, down from 25 percent over the summer. Approval ratings for the Democrats in Congress are also down by five points, to 31 percent.

After an uptick earlier this month, Congress’ job approval rating is about where it has been for the last few years – just 14 percent approve, and four in five disapprove.

Reducing the Deficit

Most Americans continue to seek a balanced approach to deficit reduction – both through tax increases and spending cuts. Sixty percent advocate a combined solution, compared to the 33 percent who think the deficit should be reduced by cuts in spending alone. Just 4 percent think taxes should be raised without a cut in spending.

Most Republicans (53 percent) want the deficit reduced with spending cuts alone, while most Democrats (77 percent) and independents (58 percent) want a combination of spending cuts and tax increases.

Respondents were asked to choose what to cut from the largest items in the federal budget, and more Americans are far more willing to cut government spending in the military (49 percent), over Medicare (20 percent) or Social Security (14 percent). Cutting military spending is the top choice of Democrats (62 percent) and independents (50 percent), while Republicans slightly favor cuts in Medicare (33 percent) to cuts in the military (28 percent).

The Economy

As they have for over five years, Americans pick the economy and jobs as the most important problem facing the country today, far ahead of health care and the budget deficit.

Most Americans continue to have a negative view of the condition of the national economy. Nearly two thirds say the economy is bad, including nearly one in four who says it is very bad.

Twenty-nine percent of Americans think the economy is getting better, though nearly as many – 27 percent – think it is getting worse. Forty-four percent think it is about the same.

Direction of the Country

Amidst a struggling economy and the impending possibility of a government shutdown, the percentage of Americans who think the country is headed in the wrong direction has risen. Just 29 percent of Americans think the country is headed in the right direction – down six points since July – while the percentage who says it is off on the wrong track has risen six points, from 60 percent in July to 66 percent today. The percentage who says the country is off on the wrong track is now the highest it has been in over a year.

Views of the Affordable Care Act are reflected in views on the direction of the country as a whole. While 54 percent of those who approve of the 2010 health care law think the country is headed in the right direction, an overwhelming 86 percent of those who disapprove of that law think the country is headed off on the wrong track.

The 2008 Bailout

Next week marks five years since the federal government “bailout” of the financial industry – formally, the Troubled Asset Relief Program – was passed amid the 2008 financial collapse. Looking back on it now, a majority of Americans (59 percent) still disapproves of government money having been used to rescue banks and financial firms.

At the time, Americans were also opposed; just three in 10 in an early-October 2008 poll approved of the relief package after it was passed. Americans doubted it would be effective, though many economists have called it necessary under the circumstances.

The measures were passed by Congress and signed into law by then-President George W. Bush. Today’s Republicans and tea party supporters, in particular, disapprove in retrospect, while Democrats are more mixed.

Looking back on 2008, Americans widely believe (79 percent) that more bankers and financial executives should have been prosecuted following the collapse.

The 2008 crisis wasn’t the first in U.S. history, and Americans expect there will be yet another banking crisis someday: almost eight in 10 think this is likely.

Today, Americans voice mixed confidence in another key economic institution, the Federal Reserve, and its ability to promote growth. Just under one-third express confidence in it, 38 percent have not much or no confidence, and another three in 10 don’t know enough about it to say.

____________________________________________________

This poll was conducted by telephone from September 19-23, 2013 among 1,014 adults nationwide. Data collection was conducted on behalf of CBS News/The New York Times by Social Science Research Solutions of Media, Pa. Phone numbers were dialed from samples of both standard land-line and cell phones. The error due to sampling for results based on the entire sample could be plus or minus three percentage points. The error for subgroups may be higher. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish. This poll release conforms to the Standards of Disclosure of the National Council on Public Polls.

At U.N., Brazil’s Rousseff blasts U.S. spying as breach of law

At U.N., Brazil’s Rousseff blasts U.S. spying as breach of law

Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 24, 2013. REUTERS-Shannon Stapleton

By Daniel Trotta

Tue Sep 24, 2013 12:14pm EDT

(Reuters) – Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff used her position as the opening speaker at the U.N. General Assembly to accuse the United States of violating human rights and international law through espionage that included spying on her email.

Rousseff had expressed her displeasure last week by calling off a high-profile state visit to the United States scheduled for October over reports that the U.S. National Security Agency had been spying on Brazil.

In unusually strong language, Rousseff launched a blistering attack on U.S. surveillance, calling it an affront to Brazilian sovereignty and “totally unacceptable.”

“Tampering in such a manner in the lives and affairs of other countries is a breach of international law and, as such, it is an affront to the principles that should otherwise govern relations among countries, especially among friendly nations,” Rousseff told the annual gathering of world leaders at the United Nations.

She also proposed an international framework for governing the internet and said Brazil would adopt legislation and technology to protect it from illegal interception of communications.

“Information and telecommunication technologies cannot be the new battlefield between states. Time is ripe to create the conditions to prevent cyberspace from being used as a weapon of war, through espionage, sabotage, and attacks against systems and infrastructure of other countries,” Rousseff said.

U.S. President Barack Obama was en route to the United Nations while Rousseff spoke. Speaking immediately after Rousseff, he avoided direct reference to her criticism.

“We have begun to review the way that we gather intelligence, so as to properly balance the legitimate security concerns of our citizens and allies, with the privacy concerns that all people share,” said Obama, who concentrated mostly on the crisis in Syria and the prospects for a diplomatic opening with Iran.

Rousseff rejected the U.S. government reasoning that the NSA surveillance was aimed at detecting suspected terrorist activity and she accused the agency of engaging in industrial espionage.

Rousseff said she had asked Washington for explanations, an apology and promises the surveillance would never be repeated.

Postponing the state visit was a rare and diplomatically severe snub by Brazil. While foreign leaders frequently visit the White House, state visits are reserved for special occasions and include an elaborate state dinner. No new date has been set.

Rousseff’s state visit was conceived to highlight cooperation between the two biggest economies in the Americas and Brazil’s emergence over the past decade as a regional power.

Ties between the United States and Brazil had been improving steadily since Rousseff took office in 2011. The cancellation could harm cooperation on trade, regional affairs and other issues at a time of growing influence from China, which has surpassed the United States as Brazil’s leading trade partner.

The trip had been seen as a platform for deals on oil exploration and biofuels technology, and Brazil’s potential purchase of fighter jets from Chicago-based Boeing Co.

A report by Brazil Globo’s news program Fantastico on National Security Agency spying was based on documents that journalist Glenn Greenwald obtained from former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. Greenwald, who lives in Rio de Janeiro, was one of the journalists to first report Snowden’s leaks of classified information on previously secret U.S. telephone and internet surveillance efforts.

The report also said the United States intercepted communications of Brazilian state oil company Petrobras and Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto before he assumed office.

“Personal data of citizens was intercepted indiscriminately,” Rousseff said in her U.N. speech.

“Corporate information, often of high economic and even strategic value, was at the center of espionage activity. Also, Brazilian diplomatic missions, among them the permanent mission to the United Nations and the office of the president of the republic itself, had their communications intercepted.”

The fruits of epic incompetence.

obama epic incompetence

The fruits of epic incompetence

By , Published: September 12.

The president of the United States takes to the airwaves to urgently persuade the nation to pause before doing something it has no desire to do in the first place.Strange. And it gets stranger still. That “strike Syria, maybe” speech begins with a heart-rending account of children consigned to a terrible death by a monster dropping poison gas. It proceeds to explain why such behavior must be punished. It culminates with the argument that the proper response — the most effective way to uphold fundamental norms, indeed human decency — is a flea bite: something “limited,” “targeted” or, as so memorably described by Secretary of State John Kerry, “unbelievably small.”

Charles Krauthammer

The mind reels, but there’s more. We must respond — but not yet. This “Munich moment” (Kerry again) demands first a pause to find accommodation with that very same toxin-wielding monster, by way of negotiations with his equally cynical, often shirtless, Kremlin patron bearing promises.

The promise is to rid Syria of its chemical weapons. The negotiations are open-ended. Not a word from President Obama about any deadline or ultimatum. And utter passivity: Kerry said hours earlier that he awaited the Russian proposal.

Why? The administration claims (preposterously, but no matter) that Obama has been working on this idea with Putin at previous meetings. Moreover, the idea was first publicly enunciated by Kerry, even though his own State Department immediately walked it back as a slip of the tongue.

Take at face value Obama’s claim of authorship. Then why isn’t he taking ownership? Why isn’t he calling it the “U.S. proposal” and defining it? Why not issue a U.S. plan containing the precise demands, detailed timeline and threat of action should these conditions fail to be met?

Putin doesn’t care one way or the other about chemical weapons. Nor about dead Syrian children. Nor about international norms, parchment treaties and the other niceties of the liberal imagination.

He cares about power and he cares about keeping Bashar al-Assad in power. Assad is the key link in the anti-Western Shiite crescent stretching from Tehran through Damascus and Beirut to the Mediterranean — on which sits Tartus, Russia’s only military base outside the former Soviet Union. This axis frontally challenges the pro-American Sunni Arab Middle East (Jordan, Yemen, the Gulf Arabs, even the North African states), already terrified at the imminent emergence of a nuclear Iran.

At which point the Iran axis and its Russian patron would achieve dominance over the moderate Arab states, allowing Russia to supplant America as regional hegemon for the first time since Egypt switched to our side in the Cold War in 1972.

The hinge of the entire Russian strategy is saving the Assad regime. That’s the very purpose of the “Russian proposal.” Imagine that some supposed arms-control protocol is worked out. The inspectors have to be vetted by Assad, protected by Assad, convoyed by Assad, directed by Assad to every destination. Negotiation, inspection, identification, accounting, transport and safety would require constant cooperation with the regime, and thus acknowledgment of its sovereignty and legitimacy.

So much for Obama’s repeated insistence that Assad must go. Indeed, Putin has openly demandedthat any negotiation be conditioned on a U.S. commitment to forswear the use of force against Assad. On Thursday, Assad repeated that demand, warning that without an American pledge not to attack and not to arm the rebels, his government would agree to nothing.

This would abolish the very possibility of America tilting the order of battle in a Syrian war that Assad is now winning thanks to Russian arms, Iranian advisers and Lebanese Hezbollah shock troops. Putin thus assures the survival of his Syrian client and the continued ascendancy of the anti-Western Iranian bloc.

And what does America get? Obama saves face.

Some deal.

As for the peace process, it has about zero chance of disarming Damascus. We’ve spent nine years disarming an infinitely smaller arsenal in Libya — in conditions of peace — and we’re still finding undeclared stockpiles.

Yet consider what’s happened over the last month. Assad uses poison gas on civilians and is branded, by the United States above all, a war criminal. Putin, covering for the war criminal, is exposed, isolated, courting pariah status.

And now? Assad, far from receiving punishment of any kind, goes from monster to peace partner. Putin bestrides the world stage, playing dealmaker. He’s welcomed by America as a constructive partner. Now a world statesman, he takes to the New York Times to blame American interventionist arrogance — a.k.a. “American exceptionalism” — for inducing small states to acquire WMDs in the first place.

And Obama gets to slink away from a Syrian debacle of his own making. Such are the fruits of a diplomacy of epic incompetence.