Blog Posts by Olivier Knox, Yahoo News

  • 8 questions about Obama’s NSA spying overhaul

    President Barack Obama’s speech on Friday about overhauling how America spies on itself and the world grabbed headlines — but it mostly served to feed, not resolve, big debates largely forced on him by Edward Snowden’s leaks.

    Here are eight questions about what happens next in the ongoing “Yes we can! But should we?” argument about the National Security Agency’s role in surveillance and overall intelligence-gathering.

    1) How will the Supreme Court react?

    Lots of reporting about the future of American surveillance seem to forget about the nine justices, who aren’t going to “react” to Obama's speech, of course, but might yet play the most influential role in setting rules of the road.

    Two federal judges have recently broken on whether the government’s storage of Americans’ telephone metadata — everything except the content of communications — is constitutional. That means the Supreme Court might weigh in on whether that program is constitutional.

    Congress and the administration’s lawyers will

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  • White House summit on college affordability: Live chat

    President Barack Obama and Michele Obama are hosting a high-profile White House summit of college and university presidents, and leaders from non-profits, state governments and the private sector as part of a push to find ways to make higher education more affordable.

    Is the ever-higher price tag on a college education worth it? Are there ways to make it cost less, and make repaying student loans easier, especially in difficult economic times? Is that colleges can do on their own? Or will it require action from Washington?

    Join Yahoo News for a live chat on these and other issues with our experts:

    - Roberto Rodriguez, Special Assistant to the President for Education Policy

    - John Malcolm McCardell, Jr., the Vice Chancellor of The University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee

    - Anthony Carnevale , director of Georgetown University’s Center on Education and the Workforce

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  • Obama NSA speech on anniversary of Eisenhower warning

    It’s a coincidence, White House aides say. President Barack Obama did not deliberately schedule his big NSA speech for Friday to mark the anniversary of Dwight Eisenhower’s warning that the “military-industrial complex” posed a potential threat to American democracy.

    Eisenhower’s Jan. 17, 1961, speech portrayed the country as locked in a struggle of “indefinite duration” — he meant against Soviet Communism, though the label could apply today to Islamist extremism. He also noted that a vigorous military, and the industrial and technological apparatus that supports it, were necessary.

    But then the former five-star general shocked Americans with this:

    “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”

    He went on:

    “We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic

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  • White House turns to ‘Magic’ to sell Obamacare

    Eager for an assist in getting young Americans to sign up for Obamacare, the White House is turning to NBA Hall of Famer Magic Johnson.

    Johnson, in a two-minute video released Wednesday, notes that access to reliable health care “saved my life” with the early detection of his HIV infection 22 years ago.

    "If it wasn’t for that quality health care that I had, and the plan that I had, I probably would have been dead," Johnson says in the video.

    “You never know when you’re going to need it,” the former world-class athlete says. “Young people, they think they’re Superman, like nothing’s ever going to happen to them. But trust me, one day something’s going to happen, and you’re going to need a quality health plan, so make sure you get Obamacare.”

    The retired Los Angeles Laker, 54, is the NBA’s all-time leader in average assists per game. He plans to promote the video—soon to be a 30-second ad on networks like ESPN, ABC and TNT—via Twitter and on a blog.

    The Obama administration has acknowledged

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  • Greenwald: I’ll watch Obama’s NSA speech, more stories coming ASAP

    When President Barack Obama lays out his proposed changes to the way America spies on its citizens and the world in a major speech on Friday, Glenn Greenwald will be watching.

    But the independent journalist and civil liberties champion whose work with former NSA contractor Edward Snowden effectively forced Obama’s hand scoffs at the notion that he is looking to time a new bombshell revelation to overshadow the president’s remarks at the Department of Justice.

    Obama administration officials privately expressed resignation this week that a new revelation, drawn from Snowden’s trove of NSA documents, could land even as Obama is trying to retake the initiative on the spying issue.

    “I think it's funny that US officials think that I calculate my stories that strategically - they're like Internet conspiracy theorists,” Greenwald told Yahoo News by email.

    It’s not just U.S. officials who are mindful of Snowden’s next move. Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy implied that America’s allies, stung

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  • Robert Gates considered Michael Bloomberg a possible Pentagon successor

    Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates writes in his buzzy memoir that, when it came time to hand over the reins at the Pentagon, he created a short list of possible successors that included one unlikely name: Michael Bloomberg, the news company billionaire serving as New York City's mayor at the time.

    "For my own job, my short list included Hillary [Clinton], Colin Powell, [then-CIA director Leon] Panetta, and New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg," Gates reveals on page 537 of "Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War."

    Panetta was plainly Gates' top choice, and ultimately got the job. Gates doesn't spell out why Bloomberg would have made a solid candidate to replace him, though New York City's government bureaucracy probably rivals the Pentagon's.

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  • U.S. State Department warns Americans — especially gays — about Sochi Games

    The State Department on Friday cautioned Americans looking to travel to the Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, that the competition may be an “attractive target” for terrorists – and issued a special warning for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender travelers.

    In a document titled “Travel Alert: Russia,” the department noted Russia had passed a law banning the “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations” to minors, including promoting equal rights for the LGBT community.

    Any Americans convicted of breaking that law might face fines of up to $3,100, up to 14 days in jail and deportation, said the department, which referred LGBT travelers to a special website.

    That site notes, “Attitudes and tolerance toward lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons vary from country to country, just as they vary among U.S. cities and states” — and that in some places, gays might even be sentenced to death. “Before choosing one’s international destination, LGBT travelers should carefully

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  • Did Obama screw up by picking Gates?

    Is the lesson of Robert Gates’ buzzy memoir that President Barack Obama shouldn’t have picked a Republican as his first defense secretary? No.

    A lot of the frowny faced early responses to Gates’ “Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War” have tut-tutted earnestly that his sometimes punishing disclosures will kill off the tradition, such as it is, of picking someone from the opposing party for a job that important.

    But that’s nonsense.

    For one thing, fellow party members can do just as much damage. You may as well argue that presidents aren’t going to hire big-time American corporate executives, former governors of Pennsylvania, or longtime loyal aides for important positions.

    That’s what former President George W. Bush’s experience with books from (or starring) former ALCOA chief Paul O’Neill, Tom Ridge and ex-press secretary Scott McClellan would suggest. Recollections from those fellow Republicans hurt Bush’s standing on economic policy, homeland security and the selling of the war in Iraq.

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  • Rand Paul to make move to repeal Iraq War law

    Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., plans to introduce legislation Friday to repeal the law that green-lighted the March 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, and which remains on the books two years after President Barack Obama declared that war over, Paul’s office said Wednesday.

    Paul's announcement came one day after Yahoo News reported the White House now favors scrapping the Authorization for the Use of Military Force in Iraq, signed into law in late 2002 by then-President George W. Bush.

    Paul has been seeking Senate co-sponsors, and hopes Obama’s decision to support repeal will clear opposition from Democrats and some prominent Republicans.

    “This bill will ensure that our chapter of action in Iraq is officially closed, and that any future President seeking to engage in the region will be required to come to Congress to gain authorization and support, as is Constitutionally required,” Paul wrote in a letter to colleagues obtained by Yahoo News.

    “I look forward to a bipartisan process that will close this

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  • White House defends Biden against brutal Gates hit

    Former Defense Secretary Robert Gates delivers blistering criticisms of Vice President Joe Biden in a new tell-all memoir that's set Washington abuzz and has the White House defending President Barack Obama's No. 1 aide.

    Biden, who has served as the administration's point man on Iraq and spent years leading the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is "a man of integrity," Gates writes, according to what amounts to a review of his book in the New York Times, "[but] I think he has been wrong on nearly every major foreign policy and national security issue over the past four decades."

    The White House politely but firmly defended Biden.

    “The President disagrees with Secretary Gates’ assessment – from his leadership on the Balkans in the Senate, to his efforts to end the war in Iraq, Joe Biden has been one of the leading statesmen of his time, and has helped advance America’s leadership in the world," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said in a statement emailed to

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