- - Thursday, December 1, 2011

HOUSE

Boehner: Obama should help replace sequester

House Speaker John A. Boehner has pressed President Obama to review the automatic spending cuts set to be triggered by last week’s failure of the defunct debt-reduction supercommittee and to work with Congress to develop a Plan B.

“The president is the commander in chief. The president I think understands pretty clearly that these cuts would do serious harm to our ability to defend our country and our allies around the world,” the Ohio Republican said Thursday during his weekly briefing with reporters.


“So I believe that there is a role for him to play in this process.”

Many rank-and-file Republicans have pushed to redo the $1.2 trillion in automatic cuts — set to begin in January 2013 — because half would target the Pentagon. Mr. Boehner, who largely avoided speaking out against the so-called “sequester” cuts during the supercommittee’s almost three-month tenure, in recent days has pushed for alternative cuts to lower the deficit.

“No one really wants to go there” with the automatic cuts as they stand, he said.

Mr. Boehner stopped short of saying a sequester redo should be part of ongoing negotiations to extend the payroll-tax holiday.

FBI

Documents outline background checks

The FBI used community-outreach programs to run background checks and collect personal information on those the bureau encountered during Muslim-related events between 2007 and 2009, according to heavily redacted internal FBI documents released Thursday by the American Civil Liberties Union.

In a statement, the ACLU said the documents — gathered through a Freedom of Information Act request — showed the bureau was “secretly and deliberately” collecting information “about innocent Americans for its intelligence files, and illegally recording information about their speech, beliefs and First Amendment-protected activities.”

“This is bad enough. But to make it worse, the FBI is doing this intelligence collection through community-outreach programs — programs that are supposed to build trust and rapport with the public — without telling community groups or their members what it is doing,” the ACLU said, noting that the programs were intended to improve relationships between Muslims and the FBI.

Michael German, ACLU senior policy counsel and a former FBI agent himself, said the trust that community-outreach efforts sought to create was undermined when the FBI “exploited the programs” to gather intelligence “on the very members of the religious and community organizations” the agents were meeting with.

“The FBI should be honest with community organizations about what information is being collected during meetings and purge any improperly collected information,” he said.

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