February 5, 2015 |
Experts and pundits tend to be terrible fortune tellers. Often wrong but rarely in doubt, they become invested in their own theories, rejecting new information that challenges their beliefs. The evidence is overwhelming, from Albert Einstein's prediction that "there is not the slightest indication that nuclear energy will ever be obtainable," to George Will's that Mitt Romney would win the 2012 presidential election by a landslide. Just as solidly proven, but far less known, is that in most cases, a group of average citizens venturing good guesses is more likely to make accurate forecasts than a typical authority on a subject, especially a smugly confident one. This counterintuitive truth has fascinated social scientists, psychologists, and statisticians for more than a century.
July 19, 2013 |
WASHINGTON - Lawmakers of both parties expressed deep skepticism Wednesday about the government's bulk collection of Americans' telephone records and threatened not to renew the legislative authority that has been used to sanction a program described as "off the tracks legally. " A congressional backlash appeared to be coalescing around the idea that the administration's interpretation of its powers far exceeds what lawmakers intended. At a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, lawmakers forcefully pressed officials from the National Security Agency, the Justice Department, the FBI, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence to justify the government's collection and storage of the communications records of vast numbers of Americans.
June 14, 2013
Snooping practically no surprise Why is it so much of a surprise that Bush-era spying by the National Security Agency is still going on? President Obama may not be as liberal as his speeches indicate, but he is pragmatic. Congress signed off on these programs several times, so its members shouldn't be surprised. As for me, I keep most of my banking off-line (even if I don't believe I'm in any danger since I have nothing to hide). As for my Facebook entries, they wouldn't elicit a stir even in my own family.
June 12, 2013 |
Keep your distance: The director of national intelligence is having intestinal distress. "For me, it is literally ... gut-wrenching to see this happen," James Clapper told NBC last weekend of leaks about the government's secret collection of vast troves of phone and Internet data. There might be more sympathy for his digestive difficulty if he hadn't delivered a kick in the gut to the American public just three months ago. Sen. Ron Wyden (D., Ore.) asked Clapper at a March hearing, "Does the NSA collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?"
June 10, 2013 |
WASHINGTON - The agency with the power and legal authority to gather electronic communications worldwide to hunt U.S. adversaries says it has the technical know-how to ensure it's not illegally spying on Americans. But mistakes do happen in data-sifting conducted mostly by machines, not humans. Sometimes, former intelligence officials say, that means intelligence agencies destroy material they should not have seen, passed to them by the Fort Meade, Md.-based National Security Agency.
October 25, 2012 |
WASHINGTON - Two hours after the U.S. Consulate came under attack in Benghazi, Libya, the White House was told that a militant group was claiming responsibility for the violence that killed the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans. A State Department e-mail sent to intelligence officials and the White House situation room said the Islamist group Ansar al-Sharia claimed responsibility on Facebook and Twitter, and also called for an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli. The document may fuel Republican efforts to show that the White House knew it was a terrorist attack, even as the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations was saying - five days afterward - that it appeared to be a protest gone awry.
March 20, 2012 |
It's become a clichÃ© of presidential debates: Facing any question about Afghanistan or other national security issues, the candidates declare that they would heed the advice of their "commanders in the field. " It is striking, then, how willing they are to dismiss outright the opinions of America's national security professionals when it comes to Iran. At a recent conference of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Republican candidates played a game of rhetorical one-upmanship in expressing their willingness to take America to war in Iran.
February 28, 2012 |
WASHINGTON - Israeli officials say they won't warn the United States if they decide to launch a pre-emptive strike against Iranian nuclear facilities, according to one U.S. intelligence official familiar with the discussions. The pronouncement, delivered in a series of private, top-level conversations, sets a tense tone for meetings in the coming days at the White House and Capitol Hill. Israeli officials said that if they decide a strike is necessary, they would keep the Americans in the dark to decrease the likelihood that the U.S. would be held responsible for failing to stop Israel's potential attack.
February 3, 2012 |
Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Thursday that the window of opportunity to act effectively against Iran's nuclear program was closing and, if sanctions fail, military action must be considered. "Today, unlike the past, the world has no doubt that Iran's nuclear program is steadily nearing readiness and is about to enter an 'immunity zone,' " Barak said in an address to the annual Herzliya Conference at the Interdisciplinary Center academic campus near Tel Aviv. The "immunity zone" refers to the point where Iran's uranium enrichment and other key nuclear activities are dispersed to secret locations or sheltered in deep underground facilities that may not be vulnerable to Israeli air strikes.
June 5, 2010 |
WASHINGTON - James R. Clapper Jr., the Pentagon's chief official for intelligence, counterintelligence, and security matters, has been chosen to become the next director of national intelligence, U.S. officials said Friday. If confirmed, Clapper, a retired Air Force general, would replace Dennis C. Blair, who resigned last month. Created after the 9/11 attacks, the national intelligence director coordinates 16 intelligence agencies and is supposed to smooth out areas of conflict.