Blog Posts by Olivier Knox

  • White House gets interim NSA report

    Amid shows of anger from U.S. allies and the American public over government espionage, the group of outside experts looking into National Security Agency practices has delivered its interim report to the White House, a senior aide to President Barack Obama told Yahoo News on Wednesday.

    Members of the Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology met at the White House with national security adviser Susan Rice, homeland security and counterterrorism adviser Lisa Monaco and other National Security Council staff, White House national security spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.

    “The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology has orally provided their interim report to the White House, with their final report due by December 15,” Hayden said. “We expect that the outcomes of their work will be made public in some way once the final report is submitted.”

    It was not immediately clear which members of the group delivered the report, which was delayed from its original

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  • Bill Clinton: Obama should fulfill ‘keep your plan’ vow

    Bill “Secretary of Explainin’ Stuff” Clinton said in an interview broadcast Tuesday that President Barack Obama should fulfill his promise to Americans that “if you like your health care plan, you can keep it” even if it means modifying the law popularly known as “Obamacare.”

    Obama made that pledge again and again, both in the run-up to the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and in the 2012 campaign — but it was false. Republicans determined to roll back Obamacare have pounded away at this broken promise, even as thousands of Americans have been receiving word that insurers are scrapping their current policies.

    “I personally believe — even if it takes a change in the law — the president should honor the commitment the federal government made to those people and let them keep what they got,” Clinton told the online magazine OZY.

    Watch parts 1 and 2 of the exclusive Bill Clinton interview at

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  • Government shutdown: Killer bees win, beer exporters lose

    How much did the 16-day government shutdown cost the country? The White House’s Office of Management and Budget is glad you asked.

    In a new report released Thursday, OMB detailed the economic pain and loss resulting from the partial closure of federal facilities precipitated by House Republicans looking to roll back Obamacare.

    The White House had already warned that 120,000 fewer private sector jobs were created in October and 0.2-0.6 percentage points were shaved from Gross Domestic Product growth in the fourth quarter of 2013.

    Here are some of the shutdown’s less obvious effects, as researched and compiled by OMG:

    - Drill, baby, drill? Not so much. About 200 permits to drill on federal lands languished unapproved.

    - Booze, lose? The Treasury Department couldn’t issue export certificates for beer, wine and liquor, so two million liters due for export were stranded at ports. (Yep, they reckoned this one in liters. It’s about 528,344 gallons.)

    - Get crabby? The shutdown delayed the

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  • Amid Obamacare furor, Obama, Biden meet with Democrats facing elections in 2014

    President Barack Obama discussed the Affordable Care Act’s disastrously botched rollout with 16 Democratic senators at the White House on Wednesday, including those seen as most vulnerable in the 2014 elections.

    The president and Vice President Joe Biden addressed the lawmakers’ concerns about the implementation of the law popularly known as Obamacare, according to sources who spoke on condition of anonymity.

    Senators gave profoundly different accounts of the meeting, which did not appear on Obama’s publicly released schedule.

    “It was a positive, constructive discussion,” said Sen. Chris Coons of Delaware, who described Obama as “engaged and responsive” and eager to show “that he has been listening to the concerns and frustrations we've shared on behalf of our constituents.”

    But Senators Mark Begich of Alaska and Mark Udall of Colorado reported back that they gave the president an earful about the embarrassing — and potentially politically crippling — rollout of the insurance

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  • U.S. (kinda) calls out Syria over chemical arms disclosures

    The White House has taken pains to portray Syria’s agreement to destroy its chemical weapons arsenal under international supervision as a big diplomatic victory for President Barack Obama. But on Tuesday, his envoy to the United Nations seemed to suggest that Syria might be double-dealing — that it may still be keeping some chemical weapons facilities secret.

    Speaking at United Nations headquarters in New York, Ambassador Samantha Power said that the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) had inspected 21 of 23 arms sites “declared by Syria” and 39 of 41 facilities at those sites.

    Power went on to say that Syria has “completed functional destruction of critical equipment for all of its declared chemical weapons production facilities and mixing and filling plans, rendering them inoperable.”

    Got that? Solid progress at “declared sites.” But here’s the problem:

    “More work, of course, remains to be done to ensure that the Syrian government’s list of declared sites is

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  • Obama fights to recapture health care initiative

    After an initial phase of shell-shocked damage control, President Barack Obama’s efforts to save his signature health care law — and with it his second term and his place in U.S. history — are taking on an aggressive tone.

    “Let’s face it, a lot of us didn’t realize that passing the law was the easy part,” Obama told scores of supporters late Monday at a posh Washington hotel.

    The new approach — emphasizing Affordable Care Act benefits that are already in effect and don’t require navigating a botched website, promoting the law’s success stories, blaming Republicans and the news media in equal measure for the bad news — also comes with a renewed focus on issues that helped unite the winning coalition of his 2012 re-election campaign.

    The president has stepped up calls for Congress to pass, by year’s end, legislation overhauling America’s immigration policy. On Tuesday, he’ll meet with top executives to make the argument that doing so would help the economy.

    And the Democratic-held Senate

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  • Replace Biden with Hillary Clinton? No way, White House says

    Did President Barack Obama’s top re-election campaign officials consider replacing Vice President Joe Biden with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton? Not seriously, the White House insisted on Friday.

    “What I can tell you without a doubt is that the president never considered that, and had anyone brought that idea to him he would have laughed it out of the room,” press secretary Jay Carney told reporters.

    The Clinton-for-Biden swap talk is one of the more eye-popping claims in the campaign-centered “Double Down: Game Change 2012.” The book contends that senior strategists for the president's re-election campaign conducted extensive focus-group tests and polling on the matter in late 2011 when it seemed the president risked losing his bid for a second term.

    “Campaigns, and pollsters as part of campaigns, test a lot of things,” Carney insisted. “I mean, they poll and focus-group on what you have for breakfast.”

    Carney, a former spokesman for the vice president, said Biden “has been an

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  • Obama’s Halloween: No ‘web’ problems here

    Obamacare might be the nightmare before Christmas for those trying to sign up online, but it turns out that the White House does have a functioning web operation. And it was on full display on Thursday night as President Barack Obama celebrated Halloween with some 5,000 area schoolchildren and kids of military families.

    The web in question housed a giant inflatable black widow spider above the entrance of the famed South Portico, with about a dozen more of the eight-legged creepy-crawlies swarming down the columns, escorted by bats and crows. Two large autumn wreaths were hung nearby.

    At about 5:30 p.m., kids walked up the driveway and formed a line that snaked from near the main door, past the East Wing and down the driveway as far as this pooler's eye could see.

    The president, first lady Michelle Obama and her mother, Marian Robinson, emerged shortly thereafter.

    "Hi guys! Come on down," the president called out. He was wearing an orange shirt, black sweater and khakis. The first lady

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  • Will U.S. stop spying on allies? Not likely

    Will President Barack Obama’s ongoing “review” of American spying programs lead to a blanket ban on surveillance targeting allied leaders? Not likely.

    At first blush, the odds might seem good that the president would embrace sweeping new restrictions in response to the global uproar over the National Security Agency actions.

    On Monday, Obama told Fusion TV that he hoped “to make sure that what they're able to do doesn't necessarily mean what they should be doing.”

    Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., declared herself “totally opposed” to National Security Agency spying on leaders of U.S. allies, except in times of war or emergency and with a presidential order.

    And National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said officials were “examining whether we have the appropriate posture when it comes to heads of state, how we coordinate with our closest allies and partners, and what further guiding principles or constraints might be appropriate for our

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  • Has U.S. stopped all spying on allies? A top official says no

    A senior U.S. official late Monday disputed Senate Intelligence Committee chair Dianne Feinstein’s assertion that the United States has stopped all spying on allies.

    Amid a global uproar over American surveillance activities, Feinstein, D-Calif., had announced earlier that “the White House has informed me that collection on our allies will not continue, which I support.”

    National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden, in a statement emailed to reporters, said the White House worked closely with Feinstein but would not confirm the senator’s assertion. “I’m not going to go into the details of those private discussions, nor am I going to comment on assertions made in the Senator’s statement today about U.S. foreign intelligence activities,” Hayden said.

    A senior administration official, who requested anonymity to speak candidly, later told Yahoo News that Feinstein’s claim was “not accurate.” The official said there had been “some individual changes” to the policy, “we have not made

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