Udall urges CIA to come clean on torture program

Obama administration has yet to authorize release of a congressional report on ‘wrongheaded’ and ‘misguided’ detention and interrogation program

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — There’s little doubt that the detention and interrogation program used in the war on terror violates international law. And with the Obama administration still refusing to come clean, Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) pressed for a full and transparent accounting of the program during a confirmation hearing for CIA General Counsel nominee Caroline Diane Krass.

Udall said that, before he can support her nomination, he needs additional information and assurances relating to the Senate Intelligence Committee’s landmark study on the CIA’s detention and interrogation program. Udall has been a leading voice in Congress for the White House and CIA to come clean about the agency’s deeply flawed detention and interrogation program. Continue reading

New effort launched to curb NSA snooping

EFF version of NSA logo

Civil liberties advocates created their own version of the NSA logo to make their point. Image courtesy Electronic Frontier Foundation.

‘We have now seen that secret, domestic surveillance programs at the National Security Agency have crossed the line’

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Along with colleagues from Wisconsin and Oregon, Senator Mark Udall (D-Colo.) is leading a new effort to curb overly eager spy agencies from invading the privacy and abusing the civil liberties of people who have absolutely no connection with terrorism.

Udall and U.S. Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisc.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.)  introduced the Freedoms and Privacy Act of 2013, legislation that strengthens transparency, oversight and accountability on National Security Agency domestic surveillance.

“Following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, we learned about the importance of sharing information about international terrorism between intelligence agencies and law enforcement,” Udall said. “But we need to ensure that any personal information collected on innocent Americans with no connection to terrorism or espionage is shared appropriately with law enforcement entities. We need strong, appropriate privacy protections,” he said. Continue reading

House GOP tries to heist federal water rights

Radical anti-environmental GOP leaders seek to privatize water

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Tenmile Creek flows through the White River National Forest near Frisco, Colorado, helping to sustain aquatic ecosystems. bberwyn photo.

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — Anti-environmental House Republicans are at it again, this time trying to pull of one of the greatest heists of all time by passing a law that would ban agencies like the National Park Service and the Forest Service from exerting any control over water flowing off federal lands.

House Resolution 3189, the so-called Water Rights Protection Act, wouldn’t actually protect any water; instead, it would open the door for more private development of water for fracking and urban development by prohibiting “the conditioning of any permit, lease or any other use agreement on the transfer, relinquishment, or other impairment of any water right to the United States by the Secretaries of the Interior and Agriculture.” Continue reading

Senate timidly moves to curb NSA snooping

Sen. Mark Udall.

Sen. Mark Udall.

Sen. Mark Udall votes against measure, says more far-reaching reform is needed

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — A bill that would take baby steps toward curbing the excessive spying by U.S. intelligence agencies passed through a Senate committee this week, but the measure doesn’t go far enough, according to Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO), who has proposed legislation that would would rein in the dragnet collection of phone records, provide safeguards for warrantless wiretapping under the FISA Amendments Act, and create a constitutional advocate to protect privacy rights in cases before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Udall voted against the bill, saying that Americans need more protection from snooping government agencies.

“The NSA’s ongoing, invasive surveillance of Americans’ private information does not respect our constitutional values and needs fundamental reform – not incidental change,” Udall said. “Unfortunately, the bill passed by the Senate Intelligence Committee does not go far enough to address the NSA’s overreaching domestic surveillance programs. ” Continue reading

Public lands: Forest Service eyes new rules for summer activities at ski resorts

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The U.S. Forest Service is taking comments on new rules governing various uses on public lands under permit to the ski industry.

Agency may authorize fees for uphill skiing, snowshoe travel at resorts on national forests

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO —Can you harmonize with the natural environment while speeding down a mountain zip line?

It may depend on exactly how fast you’re going, according to the U.S. Forest Service, which is rolling out a new set of rules to govern the permitting of summer recreational installations at ski areas operating on national forest lands.

In one of the biggest changes that would affect other private businesses near resorts, the agency would back away from a long-standing policy that precluded authorization for facilities that could be provided on nearby non-Forest Service lands. The proposed rules are posted at  http://www.fs.fed.us/specialuses. Continue reading

Lawmakers want to curb spy agency abuses

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Congress to consider intelligence-gathering reforms.

Reforms needed to restore public confidence

By Bob Berwyn

FRISCO — A bipartisan coalition of lawmakers from the U.S. House and Senate want to ban bulk collection of Americans’ records, shield Americans from warrantless searches of their communications and install a constitutional advocate to argue significant cases before the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court.

The Intelligence Oversight and Surveillance Reform Act would halt the erosion of constitutional liberties resulting from invasive surveillance activities and the secret legal interpretations that have allowed this surveillance to proliferate, according Sen. Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and other supporters of the bill, including Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.). Continue reading

Newly declassified documents offer partial explanation for dragnet-style domestic spying

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Intelligence officials are publishing a Tumblr to “provides immediate, ongoing and direct access to factual information related to the lawful foreign surveillance activities carried out by the U.S. Intelligence Community.”

Documents related to bulk collection of email data remains classified

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Newly declassified intelligence documents related to NSA telephone data collection show that the agency’s compliance and oversight mechanisms may simply been overwhelmed by the massive amount of data coming — “operational momentum,” as Director of National Intelligence James Clapper described in a statement accompanying the release of the documents.

According to Clapper, the agency responded by ramping up compliance and oversight efforts by more than quadrupling personnel associated with making sure the data collection program doesn’t violate the law. Clapper’s office has also established a Tumblr blog to provide access to some limited information about intelligence activities.

“This increase was designed to address changes in technology and authorities and reflects a commitment on the part of the Intelligence Community and the rest of the Government to ensuring that intelligence activities are conducted responsibly and subject to the rule of law,” Clapper said in his statement.

U.S. Senators Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), who serve on the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, said the release of the documents will help Americans understand the scope of the violations. According to Wyden and Udall, the documents show that intelligence agencies can gather information “without engaging in the dragnet surveillance of huge numbers of law-abiding Americans.” Continue reading

Feds ease stance on marijuana

New Justice Department guidance gives Colorado some breathing room

A marijuana plant growing on national forest land near Winter Park ski area.

A marijuana plant growing on national forest land near Winter Park ski area.

By Bob Berwyn

*More Summit Voice coverage of marijuana laws is here

FRISCO — The U.S. Department of Justice will continue to walk a tightrope between federal and state drug laws, leaving some room for Colorado to administer legal use of marijuana, while reserving the right to prosecute violations of federal law.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder called Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Washington Governor Jay Inslee to discuss the new federal position on state marijuana laws, following up with a letter that says in part, “As we discussed, while the Department will not at this time seek to challenge your state’s law, we will neverthess continue to enforce the Controlled Substances Act in your state.” Continue reading

GOP wants to axe bike path funding in 2014 budget

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Under budget measures proposed by the GOP, federal funding for bike and pedestrian paths would

Update: The transportation spending bill was pulled July 31 by the GOP house leadership, possibly until September, when it could be voted on during renewed budget wrangling. Transportation watchdog groups are taking some credit, saying the GOP pulled the measure because they couldn’t get enough support. Many members of Congress heard from constituents that they want a robust, multimodal transportation future.

FRISCO — After taking aim at public lands and environmental agency budgets last week, GOP lawmakers are now swinging their budget-cutting axe at government investments in transportation. Sen. Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, wants to strip all funding for transportation alternatives from the 2014 budget.

The League of American Bicyclists is watch-dogging the Congressional antics, and is asking cyclists to contact lawmakers to express their views.

The latest attack follows on the heels of last year’s drastic cuts that combined Transportation Enhancements, Safe Routes to School and Recreational Trails into one line item and slashed the funding by 30 percent.

The cycling group is asking its members to launch a social media blitz to let lawmakers know how they feel about any efforts to cut an already tiny budget. Follow the League of American Bicyclists on Twitter to get dialed in.

Here’s part of the post from the group’s blog:

“We are asking you to be prepared on Tuesday evening to tweet your member of Congress asking them to vote NO on any amendment that will harm funding for biking and walking.  We will send you the amendment number, the name of the sponsor and the content of the amendment, as soon as we hear an amendment has been introduced.  Please retweet that message using your Representative’s handle – and send it through your networks.

“We want to make sure Congress knows we’re watching, and that any late night attempt to cut Transportation Alternatives or otherwise harm biking and walking, will be protested by their constituents. Both the House and Senate go on a month-long recess on Friday so they need to finish this week.

Excess Air Force planes eyed for firefighting duty

Sen. Mark Udall pressing Defense Department to transfer unneeded cargo planes to U.S. Forest Service as soon as possible

A  C-27J in flight. Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force.

A C-27J in flight. Photo courtesy U.S. Air Force.

By Summit Voice

FRISCO — U.S. Forest Service efforts to modernize its firefighting air tanker fleet aren’t moving fast enough for Sen. Mark Udall, a Colorado democrat who has been pushing for more wildfire resources on all fronts.

This week, Udall pressed the U.S. Defense Department to quickly transfer excess military aircraft to the U.S. Forest Service. In a bipartisan letter, spearheaded with Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.), Udall said the Pentagon isn’t using its authority to transfer its excess aircraft at no cost to taxpayers.

According to the letter, the Forest Service was unable to meet about half of the requests for firefighting air support in 2012. The Air Force is nearing completion of a divestiture plan for the C-27J Spartan aircraft, and Udall wants to see at least some of those planes put to work fighting fires. Read the letter here. Continue reading

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