Julian Hattem

Shakeup on Senate Intelligence Committee: Sen Warner Becomes Top Democrat

A shakeup among Democrats has positioned Sen Mark Warner (D-VA) as the top minority voice on the Senate Intelligence Committee, a key role overseeing the nation’s spies.

Sen Warner, who joined the panel in 2012, ascends to the role of vice chairman following Sen Dianne Feinstein’s (D-CA) decision to replace Sen Patrick Leahy (D-VT) as Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee. Sen Leahy in 2016 opted to become the senior Democrat on the powerful Appropriations Committee. As Ranking Member of the panel, Sen Warner will work along with Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) to guide oversight of the CIA, National Security Agency (NSA) and other secretive intelligence agencies. The panel will have a key role to play in 2017 as lawmakers contemplate whether to reauthorize a key portion of the 2008 update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which undergirds controversial NSA data collection programs.

RNC: New FBI review of Clinton emails 'stunning development'

The FBI’s announcement that it may have found new evidence related to Hillary Clinton’s private e-mail server is a “stunning development” that “raises serious questions” about the Democratic presidential nominee, the head of the Republican National Committee (RNC) said. "The FBI’s decision to reopen their criminal investigation into Hillary Clinton’s secret email server just 11 days before the election shows how serious this discovery must be,” said Chairman Reince Priebus in a statement shortly after news broke about the FBI’s action. “This stunning development raises serious questions about what records may not have been turned over and why, and whether they show intent to violate the law." "What’s indisputable is that Hillary Clinton jeopardized classified information on thousands of occasions in her reckless attempt to hide pay-to-play corruption at her State Department,” Priebus continued. “This alone should be disqualifying for anyone seeking the presidency, a job that is supposed to begin each morning with a top secret intelligence briefing.”

Clinton camp blindsided by e-mail story

Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign-in-waiting appeared unprepared for a New York Times story in 2015 that exposed her exclusive use of private e-mail account and server for government business, according to a newly released e-mail. The day the Times story was published, John Podesta, who would later be named campaign chairman, asked future campaign manager Robby Mook if he had seen it coming. “Did you have any idea of the depth of this story?” Podesta asked Mook in an e-mail late on the evening of March 2, 2015, roughly a month before Clinton launched her bid for the White House. “Nope,” Mook responded after 1 am that night. “We brought up the existence of emails in reserach (sic) this summer but were told that everything was taken care of.”

The discussion, which was released by WikiLeaks from a batch of messages apparently stolen from Podesta’s account, sheds additional light on the campaign’s lack of preparation for questions about Clinton’s bespoke setup. The private e-mail arrangement has become a cloud over the Democratic presidential nominee and spurred a yearlong FBI investigation. The e-mail released Oct 27 is one of several published by WikiLeaks detailing the Clinton campaign’s scurrying response to revelations about her e-mail server.

State Dept months late on explaining Clinton aide's missing emails

The State Department is months behind on a request that it explain how a former IT aide’s e-mails appeared to have disappeared, and Republicans are crying foul. Documents obtained by the Republican National Committee (RNC) and given to ABC News reportedly show that the State Department has not responded to a July request from the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) despite a demand that it do so within 30 days. The missing e-mails are from Bryan Pagliano, an IT worker responsible for many aspects of the private e-mail setup Hillary Clinton used during her time as secretary of State.

In May, the State Department said that it did not have Pagliano’s e-mail archive, prompting outrage from the Obama Administration’s critics. It’s unclear whether Pagliano deleted his e-mails or they went missing through some other means. Despite the missing archive, the department has located some e-mails that Pagliano sent or received through the e-mail accounts of other government staffers. The National Archives, which has broad responsibilities for federal record storage, asked the State Department to describe the steps it has taken to recover Pagliano’s e-mails this summer. So far, officials have not responded. State Department spokesman John Kirby said the department is “still in the process” of responding to the letter.

In emails, aide stressed need to ‘clean up’ Obama’s comments on Clinton’s email

A top aide to Hillary Clinton appeared to worry in March 2015 that President Barack Obama might be accused of lying about his knowledge of Clinton’s private email server. In a brief email chain released by WikiLeaks, Clinton allies seemed to scurry to respond to Obama’s claim that he was unaware of Clinton’s use of a personal email account while she was Secretary of State until after it became public.

“[L]ooks like POTUS just said he found out HRC was using her personal email when he saw it in the news,” Clinton spokesman Josh Schwerin told other campaign aides in a March 7, 2015 email, using acronyms for the President and Clinton. “[W]e need to clean this up - he has emails from her - they do not say state.gov,” responded Cheryl Mills, Clinton’s former chief of staff at the State Department. The White House has insisted that President Obama was unaware of Clinton’s unusual email setup during her tenure at the State Department, even though the two occasionally communicated by email.

Clinton camp appeared to have contacts with Department of Justice on e-mail case

An e-mail stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta and posted on WikiLeaks indicates that an official within the campaign appeared to have discussions with sources inside the Department of Justice (DOJ) about ongoing open records lawsuits regarding Clinton’s e-mails.

In May 2015, Clinton campaign spokesman Brian Fallon said that “DOJ folks” had “inform[ed]” him about an upcoming status conference in one of the lawsuits regarding Clinton’s private e-mail setup. The information about an upcoming court event would have been public knowledge and open for all to attend. And it’s unclear whether the people Fallon spoke to at the Justice Department were officials who regularly communicate with the public. However, the fact that Fallon — a former spokesman with the Department of Justice — remained in contact with anyone from the department is likely to renew allegations that the Obama Administration maintained an especially cozy relationship with the former Secretary of State’s presidential campaign.

FBI restricts impersonation of journalists

The FBI is imposing new restrictions making it more difficult for investigators to impersonate journalists, following scrutiny over a 2007 episode in which the bureau posed as a reporter to track a suspected criminal. The FBI did not violate its internal policy during that controversial incident, the Justice Department’s Office of the Inspector General claimed in a 30-page report.

“In 2007, FBI policies did not prohibit the practice of agents impersonating journalists, nor was there any requirement that agents seek special approval to engage in such practice,” the watchdog concluded. Yet June 2016, it implemented an interim policy barring impersonation of a journalist without approval from the FBI’s deputy director, the watchdog revealed. That move “is a significant and important improvement to FBI policies,” the inspector general’s office claimed. The changes are the result of a 2007 incident when FBI investigators wrote a fake AP story and placed it on a website designed to mimic the Seattle Times in order to infect a suspect’s computer. A link to the story bearing the headline “Bomb threat at high school downplayed by local police department” was sent to the MySpace page of a student suspected of making multiple threats against the school and launching cyberattacks against its computer network. In followup emails to the student, Charles Jenkins, an FBI investigator portrayed himself as an “AP staff publisher” in order to get Jenkins to click on the link and links to other photographs. The operation became public in 2014 and was immediately attacked by news organizations claiming that it eroded the public’s trust in journalists.

Broadcasters: Senate TV plan would cripple emergency alerts, journalism

Broadcasters are warning that a Senate plan to change the way people pay for TV channels could have dire consequences for viewers.

The 50 state broadcaster associations have prepared a letter to Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and Sen John Thune (R-SD), warning that their Local Choice plan will “destroy” the idea of giving consumers local content. That would make it harder for people to find out information about emergencies, get weather reports and watch local news, and would hurt diversity, the state organizations wrote.

In their letter, the organizations wrote that they "oppose this proposal because of its likely devastating impacts on broadcast localism and the nation’s viewers."

Cable group hits airwaves to overhaul TV

A coalition that includes major cable and satellite television companies is launching a national campaign in support of a Senate proposal to transform the way people watch TV.

The American Television Alliance -- which includes companies including Verizon, DirecTV and Time Warner Cable, as well as consumer interest groups like Public Knowledge and the Parents Television Council -- has launched a radio and print ad campaign in more than a dozen states to back the plan from Sens Jay Rockefeller (D-WV) and John Thune (R-SD).

The proposal from the two leaders of the Senate Commerce Committee would dramatically change the way people get broadcast networks like NBC and ABC through their cable or satellite company. For the TV lobbying group, the senators’ “Local Choice” proposal, which would have consumers choose whether to purchase individual broadcast channels as part of their subscriptions, lays the groundwork for “the biggest viewer celebration ever.”

Internet sales tax move is biggest gripe for Web companies

Lawmakers’ attempts to attach an Internet sales tax to a bill preventing a tax on Internet access topped a group of Web companies’ list of bad laws for 2014.

The legislative maneuver was the top issue on a “watchlist for ugly laws” released by the trade group NetChoice, which includes Web titans like Google, Facebook, eBay and AOL.

Items on NetChoice’s semi-regular list of troublesome laws are ranked by how much harm they could cause the online economy and the chances of them being implemented.