FISA Court Orders Release of PRISM Order
The secret court overseeing government surveillance has ordered the Obama administration to release the 2008 decision authorizing the Internet spying program PRISM. The Internet giant Yahoo had asked the FISA court for permission to disclose PRISM after Edward Snowden revealed its existence last month. Snowden has alleged that PRISM taps directly into the servers of the nation’s Internet giants to collect millions of communications in the United States and abroad. The White House has until late next month to decide which parts of the decision will be published.
A coalition of 19 groups has filed a lawsuit challenging the National Security Agency’s wholesale collection of phone records. Brought by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the lawsuit accuses the NSA of violating the groups’ right of association through the collection of metadata on all U.S. calls. It is the first legal action to directly target the NSA since its massive surveillance operations were revealed.
Republicans have dropped their blockade of a number of President Obama’s appointees in return for preservation of the Senate filibuster. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid had threatened the so-called “nuclear option” of using Democrats’ Senate advantage to push through new rules ending Republicans’ ability to stall presidential picks and leave top positions unfilled. After Republicans backed down on Tuesday, the Senate immediately voted to confirm Richard Cordray as the first permanent director of the Consumer Financial Protection Board. The deal also means confirmation votes for six other nominees, including Thomas Perez for Labor Secretary and Gina McCarthy to head the Environmental Protection Agency. In return, Democrats agreed to replace two Obama picks for the National Labor Relations Board appointed during the Senate recess. The new picks are Nancy Schiffer, an attorney with the AFL-CIO, and Kent Hirozawa, the chief counsel to current NLRB chair Mark Pearce.
The United Nations continues to warn the conflict in Syria is fueling the worst refugee crisis since the Rwanda genocide. On Tuesday, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres said most of Syria’s 1.8 million refugees have fled since the beginning of the year.
António Guterres: “There are now nearly 1.8 million Syrian refugees known to UNHRC in the region. Two-thirds of them have fled Syria since the beginning of this year, an average of over 6,000 people a day. We have not seen a refugee outflow escalate at such a frightening rate since the Rwandan genocide almost 20 years ago. This crisis has been going on for much longer than anyone had feared, with unbearable humanitarian consequences.”
The official U.N. death toll for Syria’s more than two-year conflict is near 93,000.
Egypt’s interim government has sworn in its first Cabinet since the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi earlier this month. The army general who led Morsi’s removal, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, stays on as defense minister. The Cabinet also includes three women. No positions are held by members of the Muslim Brotherhood or other Islamist parties. The Muslim Brotherhood says it does not recognize the new government, calling it “illegitimate.”