TRNS News Notes is brought to you by Victoria Jones. Victoria Jones is the Chief White House correspondent and global analyst of the Washington DC based Talk Radio News Service, where her insight and analysis are made available to over 400 news talk radio stations around the country and internationally.

News Now

  • Massive govt data breach: China?
  • NSA secretly expands internet spying
  • May jobs report today: 4 things
  • Obama to G7 this weekend
  • Trade: Capitol Hill hot potato
  • Harry Reid vows to block spending bills
  • Clinton blasts GOP rivals: Voting reforms
  • Perry’s in for 2016
  • Senator seeks Disney probe: Visa program
  • Judge grants new trial: Chandra Levy


Massive Govt Data Breach: China? (WaPo, NYT, WSJ, AP, me)

• Hackers working for the Chinese state breached the computer system of the Office of Personnel Management in Dec, U.S. officials said Thursday, and the agency will notify about 4 million current and former federal employees that their personal data may have been compromised. It was the largest breach of federal employee data in recent years


• It was the second major intrusion of the same agency by China in less than a year (er horses barn doors?) and the second significant foreign breach into U.S. govt networks in recent months. Last year, Russia compromised WH and State email systems in a company of cyber-espionage


• Homeland Security’s cyberteam used an antihacking system called Einstein to alert OPM in April. The intruders used a “zero-day” – a previously unknown cybertool – to take advantage of a vulnerability that allowed the intruders to gain access into the system. China today called the accusations it did the hacking “irresponsible.” (non-denial denial)

• In the current incident, the hackers targeted an OPM data center housed at Interior Dept. The database didn’t contain info on background investigations or employees applying for security clearances, officials said. OPM operates essentially as the govt’s human resources dept. There are about 4.2 million govt employees


• The govt chose to release the OPM data breach info on the same day NYT and ProPublica published stories potentially damaging to the govt about expanded warrantless govt spying on American’s international internet traffic in the hunt for hackers. A coincidence? Makes you think. And it preaches releasing info within 30 days of a breach…



Hackers Got Employees’ Personal Info

• The intruders gained access to info that included employees’ Social Security numbers, job assignments, performance ratings and training info, addresses, agency officials said. OPM officials wouldn’t say whether pay roll data was exposed. They couldn’t say for certain what data was taken – only what the hackers gained access to. They’re notifying employees


• The personal info exposed could be useful in crafting “spear-phishing” emails, which are designed to fool recipients into opening a link or an attachment so that the hacker can gain access to computer systems. The hack is being investigated by the FBI and other agencies


• China is one of the most aggressive nations targeting U.S. and other Western states’ networks. In May 2014, the U.S. announced the indictments of five Chinese military officials for economic cyber espionage – hacking into the computers of major steel and other companies and stealing plans, sensitive negotiating details and other info


• Rep Adam Schiff (D-CA), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee, called the intrusion “shocking because Americans may expect that federal computer networks are maintained with state of the art defenses.” He said enactment of new cybersecurity measures was “perilously overdue.”



• The Intercept writes that NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has become such a powerful symbol of govt overreach that federal prosecutors in a terror case in Chicago are asking the judge to forbid defense attorneys from even mentioning his name during trial, for fear that it would lead the jury to disregard their evidence (Intercept)



NSA Secretly Expands Internet Spying at U.S. Border (NYT, ProPublica, Reuters, me)

• Docs leaked by Edward Snowden and shared with NYT and ProPublica show that the U.S. govt has widened the NSA’s warrantless surveillance of Americans’ international internet traffic in the hunt for hackers. The disclosure comes as U.S. financial institutions, businesses and govt agencies are increasingly being targeted in cyberattacks


• In mid-2012, DoJ lawyers wrote two secret memos allowing the NSA to begin hunting on internet cables, without a warrant and inside the U.S., for data linked to computer intrusions originating abroad, NYT reported, citing the docs. It said the data included traffic that flows to suspicious internet addresses or contains malware


• The DoJ permitted the NSA to monitor only addresses and “cybersignatures,” patterns tied to computer intrusions, that it could link to foreign govts. But the docs showed that the spy agency sought to target hackers even when it couldn’t establish links to foreign countries

Handy interactive: Leaked Snowden docs show expansion of cybersurveillance by U.S. agencies (NYT)


• During a briefing Thursday, WH spox Josh Earnest said he was “not in a position to talk in a lot of detail about any sort of covert govt programs that may or may not exist.” But he said President Obama’s admin will remain vigilant about an “ever-evolving” cyber threat that’s increasing in scale, sophistication and severity


• Brian Hale, spox for the office of the Director of National Intelligence (DNI), said in the NYT piece: “It should come as no surprise that the U.S. govt gathers intelligence on foreign powers that attempt to penetrate U.S. networks and steal the private info of U.S. citizens and companies.”


• Hale also said that “targeting overseas individuals engaging in hostile cyberactivities on behalf of a foreign power is a lawful foreign intelligence purpose.” – but the NSA sought to target hackers even when it couldn’t establish links to foreign countries, according to the docs Snowden leaked


• Edward Snowden writes in an op-ed in today’s NYT: “We are witnessing the emergence of a post-terror generation, one that rejects a worldview defined by a singular tragedy. For the first time since the attacks of Sept 11, 2001, we see the outline of a politics that turns away from reaction and fear in favor of resilience and reason.”

May Jobs Report Today: 4 Things (WSJ, me)

Back on track? Economists forecast a gain of 225,000 jobs in May, a slight increase from April’s 223,000 gain, and think the unemployment rate will hold steady at 5.4%. The economy shrank in the first quarter and job growth slowed sharply. But strong job creation in April spurred hopes for a spring economic rebound

Wage woes. Workers appear to be getting slightly bigger paychecks, but wage growth has been tepid. Average hourly earnings of private sector workers rose 3 cents in April from March, to $24.87. Over the past year, wages have risen just 2.2% – a mystery, given the sharp decline in unemployment. A pickup in wages in May would suggest more leverage for employees

Participation pickup. The labor-force participation rate edged up to 62.8% in April, though it still hovers near the lowest level since the late 1970s. A pickup in May could signal that a healthier job market is drawing discouraged workers off the sidelines

Broad-based boost? There are signs of labor market progress spreading to a wider swath of workers. A broad measure of unemployment, which includes workers stuck in part-time jobs and Americans too discouraged to look for work, fell to 10.8% in April, down from 12.3% a year earlier


• Pic: Delaware residents gathered at the state capitol Thursday to pay their respects to former AG Beau Biden. Biden, eldest son of VP Joe Biden, died of brain cancer Saturday. Biden lay in honor in the state Senate chamber. A grieving Joe Biden personally greeted every person who came to the capitol (AP, Daily Mail)



Obama to G7 This Weekend (AP, me)

• President Obama plans to urge European leaders this weekend not to waver from sanctions against Russia, pursuing what the WH is calling a “steady as she goes” policy while accusing Moscow of flagrantly violating a ceasefire agreement in Ukraine


• For the second year in a row, Russia’s moves on Ukraine are looming over the Group of Seven summit, which is bringing leaders of the world’s largest industrialized democracies to Germany for two days of meetings starting Sunday. The meeting comes a year after the leaders booted President Putin from their group over the Ukraine crisis


• WH officials said they’re concerned by a sudden outburst of violence in eastern Ukraine this week. Deputy national security adviser Ben Rhodes said in a conference call with reporters that continuing sanctions is the right course because they’re a deterrent against more aggressive Russian action and need more time to work (lots of time, apparently)


• At the G-7 meeting at the Schloss Elmau, a one-time Bavarian artist retreat turned luxury spa, (wow like wwoww – I’d do zero work) Obama will join the leaders of Britain, Germany, France, Italy, Canada and Japan. Obama plans to open his trip by meeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel and delivering a speech in the picturesque Alpine village of Krun


• SecDef Ash Carter has summoned American defense and diplomatic officials for meetings today in Germany on countering Russia and assessing the effectiveness of the sanctions and U.S.-backed military ops. He wants advice on whether the U.S. needs to expand military exercises or step up assistance to other – worried – countries in the region



• At the UN press briefing Thursday, reporters were told that only 50% of humanitarian relief has been received in Iraq. A UN spox said that more than 8 million people need life saving support and it might grow to 10 million people by the end of the year. Human rights and the rule of law are under constant threat, the spox said (TRNS)



Trade: Capitol Hill Hot Potato (Hill, me)

• House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) said Thursday “it’s absolutely the Speaker’s responsibility” to pass a central part of President Obama’s trade agenda. “I have confidence in him. I believe he can deliver 200 of his members, but it’s not my responsibility.” (‘snot my job)


• The Republicans hold an overwhelming 245 seats in the House; they need only 218 to pass the trade promotion authority (TPA) legislation. But a large number of conservatives don’t want to give any new powers to a president they accuse of abusing his executive authority (and whom they can’t stand and think is from Kenya) – so GOP leaders are scrambling


• At least 15 Democrats have said they voted for the bill, which could hit next week. Pelosi wouldn’t say how she’d vote. “They need 218, they probably have … a dozen and a half on the Democratic side – I don’t know where everybody is – the Speaker should be able to deliver 200 votes,” Pelosi said during a presser at the Capitol


• Speaking to reporters after Pelosi’s presser, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) hedged: “I’m not the whip, so I don’t get into vote counts.” (but he reports to you) Boehner said President Obama has “got some work to do, too” to deliver Democratic votes. “We need to get this finished. We’re gonna get it done,” Boehner said


• WH spox Josh Earnest said Thursday, “We would expect he
[Boehner] would use that substantial majority” to win support for the bill. Earnest said Obama is personally lobbying House Democrats and will do so “right up until the vote occurs.”


• Sens Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Bob Casey (D-PA) and Rep Jerry Nadler (D-NY) on Thursday introduced the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, designed to clarify discrimination laws to protect pregnant women in the workplace (TRNS)



Harry Reid Vows to Block Spending Bills (Politico, me)

• Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) is vowing to use Senate rules to block the entire appropriations process. At a closed-door Democratic leadership meeting Tuesday night, Reid vowed that his caucus wouldn’t allow a single spending measure to get a floor vote – sources familiar (go whole hog, harry)


• And, ironically, being in the minority may be good for this. If the GOP refuses to deal and a govt shutdown occurs, the blame will likely fall to conservatives who control both chambers of Congress. The plan, if it works out for Reid, would deliver a huge blow to the Senate’s fledgling Republican majority


• Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) blasted the strategy in a statement: “Underscoring their devotion to DC dysfunction, Democrats are now threatening to deny funding for the brave men and women who protect us, their families, and veterans in a childish gambit to wrest billions more for wasteful bureaucracies like the IRS.” (good stuff, Mitch)


• In 2013, the GOP did it to the Democrats. Now, though, the GOP has hoped for a return to “regular order” – where all 12 appropriations bills are individually scrutinized and passed on the floor – as a way to demonstrate Republicans can govern effectively with control of both chambers (that particular horse is American Pharoah and has galloped out of barn)


• Republicans in both chambers are working on spending bills that give the Pentagon more money, skirting 2011 spending caps by tucking the money into a separate war fund. But President Obama and Democrats want dollar-for-dollar funding boosts for domestic priorities, too – they’re betting that gumming up the works will force the GOP to make a deal



• Former FIFA VP Jack Warner, who has been indicted in the U.S., said in a TV address that he’s given his lawyers docs outlining the links between FIFA, its funding, himself and the 2010 election in his native Trinidad and Tobago. “I reasonably actually fear for my life,” he said. He promised an “avalanche” of revelations to come (ESPN)



Clinton Blasts GOP Rivals Over Voting Reforms (Hill, WaPo, me)

• Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton on Thursday called for ensuring at least 20 days of early voting across the country, restoring key pieces of the Voting Rights Act and instituting automatic registration during a speech at Texas Southern University in Houston, a historically black university


• Clinton went after former Gov Rick Perry (R-TX), Gov Scott Walker (R-WI), Gov Chris Christie (R-NJ) and former Gov Jeb Bush (R-FL) by name, accusing the GOP presidential hopefuls of taking part in “a sweeping effort to disempower and disenfranchise “minorities, young people and the poor” – gloves now off


• “I call on Republicans at all levels of govt, with all manner of ambition, to stop fear-mongering about a phantom epidemic of election fraud and start explaining why they are so scared of letting citizens have their say,” she said


• Clinton condemned SCOTUS’s 2013 decision to quash a key portion of the Voting RIghts Act, which forced certain states with a history of discriminatory election laws to pre-clear their changes with the federal govt. She said that has allowed localities to pass more restrictive laws without oversight. She suggested Republicans intended to keep voters away from the polls


• Former Gov Jeb Bush (R-FL) will stop pretending and announce his candidacy for the Republican nomination on 15 June at the Miami Dade College Kendall Campus. And why he couldn’t have told Bob Schieffer that on Face the Nation Sunday, goodness only knows. He had to have known then. Bit of a lame fumble (CNN, me)



Perry’s In for 2016 (CNN, me)

• Four years after his first presidential campaign was crushed by the weight of his “oops” debate gaffe and stump speech mishaps, the governor who spent 14 years presiding over Texas launched his second bid for the Republican nomination Thursday. “I’m running for the presidency of the United States,” former Gov Rick Perry (R-TX) said at a rally in Addison TX


• Perry released a video online Thursday morning. “If we’re going to revive this American dream again we need a president who provides leadership that transcends the petty partisanship we’ve seen in the last few years,” Perry says in a stump speech used in the video. Perry was flanked by military veterans at his rally – to highlight his military service


• Perry’s 2012 issues included the “oops” moment in the CNBC debate, when he couldn’t remember the name of one of the three federal agencies he said he wanted to abolish. There was also a New Hampshire speech where voters wondered aloud afterwards whether he’d been drinking


• Perry’s headed to Iowa, where on Saturday he’ll be in the city of Perry to kick off a “Ride with Rick” event that benefits the Puppy Jake Foundation, a non profit that provides service dogs to wounded veterans. He’ll ride a motorcycle belonging to a disabled veteran and the ride will end in Boone IA, where Perry will participate in an event with Sen Joni Ernst (R-IA)



• A new report by the EPA says fracking hasn’t caused any major harm to drinking water supplies (see video of fracking causing drinking water to catch fire). But the EPA acknowledged numerous limitations to its research, including insufficient data and other sources of water pollution (Hill, me)



Senator Seeks Disney Probe: Visa Program (NYT)

• Sen Bill Nelson (D-FL) called Thursday for Homeland Security Dept to investigate a temporary visa program for highly skilled immigrants after a NYT report that technology employees at Walt Disney World in Orlando and other companies lost their jobs to immigrants and had to train their replacements before leaving


• In a letter to Homeland Security Sec Jeh Johnson, Nelson asked him to examine “potential misuses” of a visa program known as H-1B. NYT reported Wed that about 250 Disney workers were laid off last year and many were replaced by immigrants hired by an outsourcing company based in India. “This program was created to help fill jobs when there were labor shortages.”


• The H-1B program provides a limited number of temporary visas – 85,000 a year – for foreigners with computer, engineering or other advanced skills to fill jobs in American companies when American workers aren’t available


• Several workers said they’d been told by local companies contracting to Disney that they couldn’t hire recently laid-off Disney employees until one year after their termination. The workers asked to speak anonymously, saying they could jeopardize their chances to find new jobs if they criticized Disney publicly. Disney said there was no such policy


• Last year, Southern California Edison, a power utility, started layoffs of 540 workers, replacing them with immigrants brought in by a different Indian-based outsourcing company



• After an intense lobbying campaign, the FDA Thursday approved what would become the first drug to treat lack of sexual desire in premenopausal women. But it’s not a female Viagra, whatever the stories say. Viagra treats erectile dysfunction, and Sprout influences the level of certain chemicals in the brain such as serotonin (NYT, me)



New Trial: Chandra Levy Murder (WaPo, HuffPo, me)

• A Washington DC judge has granted a new trial to Ingmar Guandique, a 34-year-old undocumented immigrant convicted of killing 24-year-old Chandra Levy, the govt intern whose 2001 disappearance and death grabbed national headlines, largely because of an affair with a married California congressman. Prosecutors stood by the verdict but said they wouldn’t oppose


• Guandique’s attorneys have argued for more than a year that he was convicted in his 2010 trial on the false or misleading testimony of a jailhouse snitch who said Guandique confessed to killing Levy in order to curry favor with prosecutors


• Levy was an intern with the Federal Bureau of Prisons when she went missing in May 2001 while jogging in Rock Creek Park. Her remains were found a year later. Much of the media scrutiny focused on Rep Gary Condit (D-CA). Police revealed he was having an affair with Levy, his former intern. And he acted guilty – and stupid – throughout the summer


• Condit initially denied the affair and was ultimately ruled out as a suspect. The married congressman’s affair derailed his 30-year political career and his lost his House seat in 2002 in what had been considered an easy reelection. Levy’s case disappeared from the news on September 12th 2001


• Sometimes you just gotta bow: Rocking into the weekend with “Lean On” – Major Lazer & DJ Snake

Get it first. Sign up here for TRNS News Notes


Victoria Jones – Editor

TRNS’ Ellen Ratner and Anna Merod contributed to this report


The Talk Radio News Service is the only information, news booking and host service dedicated to serving the talk radio community. TRNS maintains a Washington office that includes White House, Capitol Hill and Pentagon staffed bureaus, and a New York office with a United Nations staffed bureau. Talk Radio News Service has permanent access to every breaking newsevent in the Washington, D.C. area and beyond.

Copyright © 2015 The Talk Radio News Service, All rights reserved.