EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

June 19, 2013

Around the nation


The Eagle-Tribune

---- — NSA director defends surveillance program

WASHINGTON (AP) — The U.S. foiled a plot to bomb the New York Stock Exchange because of the sweeping surveillance programs at the heart of a debate over national security and personal privacy, officials said Tuesday at a rare open hearing on intelligence led by lawmakers sympathetic to the spying.

The House Intelligence Committee hearing provided a venue for officials to defend the once-secret programs and did little probing of claims that the collection of people’s phone records and Internet usage has disrupted dozens of terrorist plots. Few details were volunteered.

Army Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, said the two recently disclosed programs — one that gathers U.S. phone records and another that is designed to track the use of U.S.-based Internet servers by foreigners with possible links to terrorism — are critical. But details about them were not closely held within the secretive agency. Alexander said after the hearing that most of the documents accessed by Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former systems analyst on contract to the NSA, were on a web forum available to many NSA employees. Others were on a site that required a special credential to access. Alexander said investigators are studying how Snowden did that.

He told lawmakers Snowden’s leaks have caused “irreversible and significant damage to this nation” and undermined the U.S. relationship with allies.

When Deputy FBI Director Sean Joyce was asked what is next for Snowden, he said, simply, “justice.” Snowden fled to Hong Kong and is hiding.

Military has schedule for women to move into combat jobs

WASHINGTON (AP) — A top general says cultural, social and behavioral concerns may be bigger hurdles than physical fitness requirements for women looking to move into the military’s special operations units.

Maj. Gen. Bennet Sacolick, director of force management for U.S. Special Operations Command, says “the days of Rambo are over.”

He says he has seen women working alongside special operations teams in Afghanistan who met difficult physical requirements. But he says the commandos usually deploy as small teams, often with a dozen or fewer troops, in austere conditions for long periods of time.

He says he is more concerned about the men’s reactions to having women in their ranks.

Military leaders are detailing plans to slowly bring women into thousands of combat jobs, although after studies some exception may be made.

Congressional Budget Office says immigration bill would cut deficits by $197 billion

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Congressional Budget Office says a sweeping immigration bill before the Senate would cut deficits by $197 billion over 10 years.

The bill would add $262 billion in new spending and tax credits over 10 years, a sum more than covered by $459 billion in increased revenues, according to the report Tuesday by Congress’ nonpartisan scorekeepers.

The bill would cut deficits by an additional $700 billion in the second 10 years after taking effect, CBO says.

Some 8 million people in the U.S. illegally would initially gain legal status under the legislation, according to the CBO analysis. That’s compared with a population of about 11 million immigrants now in the country illegally.

Booker, the odds-on favorite to be NJ’s next US senator, encounters bumps along the path

NEWARK, N.J. (AP) — In an accelerated election for a new U.S. senator from New Jersey, the Democratic field is Cory Booker vs. everyone else.

The Newark mayor’s name recognition and deep-pocketed pals would give him an advantage in any statewide race. But the charismatic Booker — who clearly has national political ambitions and has spent significant time raising his profile on social media and giving speeches around the country — may be more familiar to talk show viewers than to New Jersey voters. His ride to Washington got bumpier when the election was moved up a year because of Sen. Frank Lautenberg’s death this month.

Booker, 44, hasn’t raised as much money as he hoped. He hasn’t finished his second term in Newark, something he promised to do when he decided not to challenge Gov. Chris Christie’s re-election bid. And he didn’t have time to try to discourage other Democrats from competing against him in a party primary.

Booker is still the odds-on favorite to win the Aug. 13 primary, which is akin to coronation because a Republican hasn’t held the seat for more than 40 years. One recent poll had him up by 40 points among other Democrats. It also showed him well ahead of the likely Republican challenger, former Americans for Prosperity state director Steve Lonegan, in the Oct. 16 general election, which will settle the seat for a year.

As few as 200,000 voters could decide the outcome, an anticipated turnout so low it adds to the uncertainty.