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City Police welcome new class of officers

Thursday, 09 January 2014 10:40 Published in Local News
The Metropolitan Police Department will host a graduation ceremony for 28 new police
officers on Thursday.  The ceremony will take place in the Anheuser-Busch
Auditorium and begins at 7:00 p.m.
After 28 weeks of rigorous physical training and hours of classroom instruction, the
newest members of the Metropolitan Police Department are ready to embark on their new
journeys as St. Louis Police Officers. The new officers will be sworn in and presented their
official police badges at the ceremony. Mayor Francis Slay and Chief Sam Dotson will address
the new officers. The Deputy Chiefs and various commanders will be in attendance.

OBAMA PONDERS LIMITING NSA ACCESS TO PHONE RECORDS

Thursday, 09 January 2014 08:24 Published in National News

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is expected to rein in spying on foreign leaders and is considering restricting National Security Agency access to Americans' phone records, according to people familiar with a White House review of the government's surveillance programs.

Obama could unveil his highly anticipated decisions as early as next week. On Thursday, the president is expected to discuss his review with congressional lawmakers, while his top lawyer plans to meet with privacy groups. Representatives from tech companies are meeting with White House staff on Friday.

The White House says Obama is still collecting information before making final decisions.

Among the changes Obama is expected to announce is more oversight of the National Intelligence Priorities Framework, a classified document that ranks U.S. intelligence-gathering priorities and is used to make decisions on scrutiny of foreign leaders. A presidential review board has recommended increasing the number of policy officials who help establish those priorities, and that could result in limits on surveillance of allies.

Documents released by former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden revealed that the U.S. was monitoring the communications of several friendly foreign leaders, including German Chancellor Angela Merkel. The revelations outraged Merkel as well as other leaders, and U.S. officials say the disclosures have damaged Obama's relations around the world.

Obama and Merkel spoke by phone Wednesday, but U.S. officials would not say whether they discussed the NSA issues.

The president also is said to be considering one of the review board's most aggressive recommendations, a proposal to strip the NSA of its ability to store telephone records from millions of Americans and instead have phone companies or a third party hold the records. The NSA would be able to access the records only by obtaining separate court approval for each search, though exceptions could be made in the case of a national security emergency.

It's unclear whether Obama will ultimately back the proposal or how quickly it could be carried out if he does.

Before making his final decisions, the president was supposed to receive a separate report from a semi-independent commission known as the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, which was created by Congress. However, that panel's report has been delayed without explanation until at least late January, meaning it won't reach the president until after he makes his decisions public.

Members of that oversight board met with Obama on Wednesday and have briefed other administration officials on some of their preliminary findings. In a statement, the five-member panel said its meeting with the president focused on the NSA phone collection program and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which oversees the data sweeps.

It's unclear why Obama will announce his recommendations before receiving the report from the privacy and civil liberties board. One official familiar with the review process said some White House officials were puzzled by the board's delay. The report would still be available to Congress, where legislators are grappling with several bills aimed at dismantling or preserving the NSA's authority.

That official and those familiar with the White House review insisted on anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the process by name.

Obama also met Wednesday with members of the U.S. intelligence community, which largely supports keeping the NSA surveillance programs intact.

Shortly after receiving the review board recommendations last month, Obama signaled that he could be open to significant surveillance changes, including to the bulk collecting of phone records.

"There are ways we can do it, potentially, that gives people greater assurance that there are checks and balances — that there's sufficient oversight and sufficient transparency," Obama said at a Dec. 20 news conference. He added that programs like the bulk collection "could be redesigned in ways that give you the same information when you need it without creating these potentials for abuse."

The president also has backed the idea of adding a public advocate position to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which rules on many of the domestic surveillance decisions. The court typically hears only from the government as it decides cases, and the advocate would represent privacy and civil liberties concerns.

That review followed disclosures from Snowden, who leaked details of several secret government programs. He faces espionage charges in the U.S., but has been granted temporary asylum in Russia.

While Obama has said he welcomes the review, it's unlikely it would have occurred without Snowden's disclosures.

Last month, U.S. District Judge Richard Leon ruled that the NSA's bulk collection program appeared to violate Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches, but he didn't issue a preliminary injunction against unreasonable searches because of expected appeals. Late Wednesday, Justice Department lawyers asked Leon to halt further proceedings in his court on the NSA case and a second NSA-related lawsuit until the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit hears the government's appeal of his December ruling.

Government lawyers said they were asking for the judicial stay from Leon because they were concerned that further court proceedings could jeopardize classified information about the surveillance program.

Larry Klayman, the conservative lawyer who filed the suit, has said he plans to ask the U.S. Supreme Court to hear the case.

___

Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

CHRISTIE FACES POLITICAL FALLOUT OVER TRAFFIC JAM

Thursday, 09 January 2014 08:23 Published in National News

TRENTON, N.J. (AP) — New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie has scheduled a news conference for Thursday, one day after emails and text messages revealed his administration may have closed highway lanes to exact political retribution.

There was likely to be fallout for the second time in weeks, given that the governor issued a statement Wednesday saying he was "outraged and deeply saddened" by the revelations. He said he was misled by a key aide and he denied involvement.

"This completely inappropriate and unsanctioned conduct was made without my knowledge," he said in the statement. "People will be held responsible for their actions."

The governor was set to answer questions at the Statehouse at 11 a.m., just weeks after he announced the resignation of a top appointee at the center of the controversy. During a previous news conference, Christie had called a Democratic-led state investigation into the incident politically motivated and joked that he had personally put up traffic cones to close the lanes.

This was supposed to be a month of celebration for Christie's political future.

But after the personal messages revealed Wednesday that his administration may have closed highway lanes to exact political retribution, the prospective Republican presidential candidate is faced with what may be the biggest test of his political career.

The revelations thrust a regional transportation issue into a national conversation raising new questions about the ambitious governor's leadership on the eve of a second term designed to jumpstart his road to the White House.

Critics quickly emerged across New Jersey and beyond, high-profile Democrats and Republicans among them, including some who know the 51-year-old governor best.

"What are these people doing?" asked a baffled former New Jersey Republican Gov. Tom Kean, whom Christie has often described as a mentor. "The closer to the governor this is, the more harm that it's going to do."

The emails and text messages suggest that one of Christie's top aides engineered traffic jams in the New Jersey town last September to punish its Democratic mayor. The messages do not directly implicate Christie, but they appear to contradict his assertions that the closings were not punitive and that his staff was not involved.

The messages were obtained by The Associated Press and other news organizations amid a statehouse investigation into whether the lane closings that led to the tie-ups were retribution against the mayor of Fort Lee for not endorsing Christie for re-election last fall.

"Time for some traffic problems in Fort Lee," Christie deputy chief of staff Bridget Anne Kelly wrote in August in a message to David Wildstein, a top Christie appointee on the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

A few weeks later, Wildstein closed two of three lanes connecting Fort Lee to the heavily-traveled George Washington Bridge, which runs between New Jersey and New York City.

Beyond the specifics of the lane closures, critics suggest the incident reflects a darker side of Christie's brand of politics that contradicts the image he'd like to project as he eyes the presidency.

The governor repeatedly sidestepped criticism that he bullied adversaries in an overwhelming re-election victory in November. Facing a little-known and underfunded opponent, he cast himself as a different kind of Republican: a compromising, consensus builder who ultimately earned strong support from minorities, union members and even many Democrats.

It was described as the opening argument for Christie's prospective White House run. That argument is now clouded, at least temporarily, during one of the most important transitions of his political career.

In less than two weeks, he is scheduled to celebrate his second inauguration in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty on historic Ellis Island, a symbolic beginning to a second term designed to expand Christie's bipartisan appeal. He also is expected to unveil his second-term priorities — solidifying his presidential resume — in a state-of-the-state address later this month, while beginning an aggressive national travel schedule as chairman of the Republican Governors Association.

Even if Christie navigates the current situation quickly, Republican operative Hogan Gidley said it would almost surely come back to haunt him in a presidential run. He described Christie's "bulldog style" as both a political asset and a liability.

"I don't necessarily think it's Christie's policy that's going to ultimately catapult or sink his campaign; I think it's his personality," said Gidley, a senior adviser to 2012 presidential candidate Rick Santorum.

The messages also raise questions about Christie's most recent appointee to the Republican Governors Association, Bill Stepien, who was in communication with Wildstein about the lane closures while managing Christie's re-election campaign. Wildstein, a childhood friend of the governor, is scheduled to testify later Thursday before a state Assembly committee but is fighting the subpoena.

National conservative opinion leaders joined Christie's critics Wednesday, while the Democratic National Committee released a web video that details Christie's earlier assurances that neither he nor his staff had anything to do with the closures.

"I've made it to very clear to everybody on my senior staff that if anyone had any knowledge about this that they needed to come forward to me and tell me about it, and they've all assured me that they don't," Christie said in mid-December, mentioning Stepien by name.

DNC chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz said the "revelations are troubling for any public official." But she said: "They also indicate what we've come to expect from Gov. Christie — when people oppose him, he exacts retribution. When people question him, he belittles and snidely jokes. And when anyone dares to look into his administration, he bullies and attacks."

Other Republicans have been critical of Christie's politics in the past.

In a book released in November, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney raised concerns about Christie's insistence that Romney obtain Christie's approval to raise money in New Jersey. Romney found Christie's position "galling, like something out of 'The Soprano's,'" according to the authors of the book "Double Down: Game Change 2012."

Kean said it was imperative for Christie to address the latest issue head on.

"He's known as a straight shooter and a straight talker. He's got to be the same on this one," Kean said. "Whatever's there, get it all out, and do it now."

___

Peoples reported from Washington.

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