Intel Questions Plague Obama

By MICHAEL FALCONE ( @michaelpfalcone )


  • SENATE INTEL CHAIR CALLS FOR 'MAJOR REVIEW': Despite the furor over spying on its friends, the Obama administration is undecided on whether it will stop surveillance of all its allies after the head of the Senate Intelligence Committee claimed it would do so, a White House official said yesterday, according to ABC's ARLETTE SAENZ. Sen. Dianne Feinstein's assertion that the administration has halted its surveillance of U.S. allies is "not accurate," the senior administration official said in a statement. "While we have made some individual changes, which I cannot detail, we have not made across the board changes in policy like, for example, terminating intelligence collection that might be aimed at all allies," the official said. Feinstein, chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said yesterday she is "totally opposed" to the United States' collecting intelligence on its allies and called for a "major review" into all intelligence gathering programs.
  • OBAMA: 'WHAT THEY'RE ABLE TO DO, DOESN'T NECESSARILY MEAN WHAT THEY SHOULD BE DOING': President Obama yesterday declined to say whether he was aware U.S. intelligence had been monitoring the German chancellor's cell phone as he chatted amiably with her four months ago. But in an exclusive interview with ABC's JIM AVILA for the launch of ABC News/Univision joint venture Fusion, Obama assured the U.S. people that national security operations are only being used to protect them and are being reassessed to make sure the National Security Agency's growing technical spying prowess is kept under control. "The national security operations, generally, have one purpose and that is to make sure the American people are safe and that I'm making good decisions," Obama said. "I'm the final user of all the intelligence that they gather. But they're involved in a whole wide range of issues. "We give them policy direction, but what we've seen over the last several years is their capacities continue to develop and expand, and that's why I'm initiating now a review to make sure that what they're able to do, doesn't necessarily mean what they should be doing," Obama said.
  • HAPPENING TODAY: This afternoon, the House Intelligence Committee will hold a hearing on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, featuring National Security Agency chief Gen. Keith Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. As ABC's DEVIN DWYER notes, both men are likely to be asked about the row with European allies over spying.


ABC's JEFF ZELENY: The Senate Intelligence Committee has consistently stood in near lockstep with President Obama and the NSA. But that is swiftly changing. Sen. Dianne Feinstein and other key lawmakers feel mislead over the U.S. practice of listening in on foreign leaders. She pledged yesterday the committee would open a "major review" of intelligence programs. This is a big deal. It signals a turning point and could tie up the administration for a considerable chunk of the rest of its second term. The latest spying scandal has frayed relations with the committee, which explains these notably harsh words from Feinstein: "It is abundantly clear that a total review of all intelligence programs is necessary so that members of the Senate Intelligence Committee are fully informed as to what is actually being carried out by the intelligence community."

ABC's RICK KLEIN: When Edward Snowden started leaking information about American spy programs, surely he never considered that among those learning about what the US was doing would be the president of the United States. Snowden's disclosures have angered friends, delighted enemies, and reordered the politics of national security back home. Even now, the White House is arguing with the Democratic chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee about what practices are currently being engaged in. More troublingly for President Obama, the White House is warring with intelligence officials: "This is officially the White House cutting off the intelligence community," a "senior intelligence official" told the Los Angeles Times, arguing that the surveillance programs now being questioned have long been authorized by law. Obama's statement in an interview with ABC/FUSION's Jim Avila suggests a new battle sparked by Snowden is on the way. The president said his review is "to make sure that what they're able to do, doesn't necessarily mean what they should be doing."

ABC's ABBY PHILLIP: Election Day in Virginia is seven days away and even though it might be hard to find a Democrat willing to jinx their chances (publicly at least) it's looking increasingly likely that Terry McAuliffe has sewn this governor's race up. With the help of President Bill Clinton this week and President Obama on Sunday, the goal at this point is to run up the score as much as possible and boost Democratic candidates from the attorney general to the House of Delegates. Democrats want this election to be more than a victory-they hope it will be a warning shot. But to do that they have to look beyond the governor's mansion to the down-ballot seats in the Commonwealth. So what does this mean for Republicans? It's too early to tell, but state of the current race is bound to be already causing some soul searching within the party.


BEHIND THE CURTAIN OF THE BUSH-CHENEY WHITE HOUSE: WHO WAS REALLY CALLING THE SHOTS? Was Vice President Dick Cheney pulling the strings in the George W. Bush White House? Bush has often been characterized as a puppet to Cheney, but a new book by Peter Baker, "Days of Fire: Bush and Cheney in the White House," debunks that narrative. Baker told "The Fine Print's" JEFF ZELENY that the two were actually on "opposite sides" on a host of issues, a rift he said began well before Bush refused to pardon Cheney adviser Scooter Libby. "What I'm surprised by was just how far apart President Bush and Vice President Cheney had drifted by the end of the administration," Baker said. "They were on opposite ends by the end on so many things: Iran, North Korea, Syria, Lebanon, Russia, federal spending, the auto bailout, climate change, gun rights, [and] gay rights." The two had such strong differences, Baker said, that Cheney offered to step down as vice president on three separate occasions. "He didn't think President Bush took him seriously the first two times, so we went back," said Baker, who interviewed Cheney for the book.


TERRY MCAULIFFE DRAWS ON BILL CLINTON MAGIC. In the campaign's waning days, former President Bill Clinton's oversized presence on the trail for Virginia's Democratic gubernatorial candidate Terry McAuliffe is about one thing: turning out voters, ABC's ABBY PHILLIP notes. "Are you absolutely sure that everybody in this crowd tonight is going to vote?" Clinton asked the crowd in a packed Northern Virginia middle school auditorium tonight. "How sick will you be knowing if something goes wrong that he was ahead in the polls and lost because you didn't show up?" As Clinton spoke, a new Washington Post-Abt SRBI poll brought word that McAuliffe's lead over Republican Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli had stretched to 12 points ahead of the Nov. 5 election. The survey indicated that Democrats could potentially deal a significant blow to Republicans statewide in statewide for the first time in a quarter century. Likely voters in the survey favor the Democratic candidate for Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam over the Republican E. W. Jackson. And the Democrats' candidate for attorney general, Mark Herring, is ahead by 3 points - within the margin of error - in a tight race against Republican Mark Obenshain.

-THE 'EXPLAINER-IN-CHIEF': Clinton has received celebrity welcomes from the crowds just about wherever he has gone halfway through his four-day, nine-stop campaign tour for McAuliffe, 56. Promising to keep it short at the last campaign stop of the day, Clinton managed to speak for nearly a half hour, often reminding the audience why he has been dubbed "explainer-in-chief." He waxed detailed on the benefits of early childhood education, lamented the global shortage of jobs for young people and knocked "these tea party people" for sowing division in politics. "Why are all these tea party people so unhappy?" Clinton said. "Why are they insisting that we major in the minors and fight with each other all the time?" McAuliffe, he said, believes "in the politics of cooperation not the politics of division."

CHRISTIE: 'I'LL DO THIS JOB AS LONG AND AS AGGRESSIVELY AS I CAN'. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie had a careful answer to the question of whether he would commit to serving another four years as the chief executive of the Garden State if he wins re-election next week, ABC's ELIZABETH HARTFIELD reports. "I'm committed to being the best governor New Jersey can have for as long as I can possibly do it," Christie told GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS in an interview Tuesday on "Good Morning America." "But, you know, George, neither one of us have a crystal ball and know what's going to happen in the future." The star GOP governor is viewed as a likely presidential candidate in 2016. His gubernatorial term, if he's re-elected next week, would run until the end of 2017. Polls show Christie ahead of his Democratic opponent, New Jersey State Sen. Barbara Buono. Christie's interview on "Good Morning America" marked the first anniversary of superstorm Sandy, which made landfall in the Northeast one year ago on Oct. 29, 2012. Christie hailed the progress made in New Jersey over the past 12 months but acknowledged there was still a lot to be done.

IKE SKELTON, LONGTIME FORMER CONGRESSMAN, DIES AT 81. Ike Skelton, a Missouri Democrat who spent more than three decades in Congress and served as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, died yesterday. He was 81. Skelton, who was elected to 17 terms in the House, fell short in his bid for re-election in 2010 when Democrats lost control of the House. His defeat became a symbol of the tea party wave that swept Republicans into power, ABC's JEFF ZELENY notes. Vicky Hartzler, a Republican, won the race and re-election in 2012. Skelton was a champion of the military - and military spending - and vigorously defended Fort Leonard Wood and Whiteman Air Force Base in his sprawling rural Missouri district. Vice President Joe Biden mourned Skelton this evening, describing him s a "classy guy." "He was a great friend," Biden said at the Capitol after dinner with House Democrats. "He campaigned for me way back early on. I was in and out of his district a lot. He helped me when I was trying to get the nomination. He helped me win re-election. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi praised Skelton for his 34 years of service in Congress. "He fought to bridge what he called 'a chasm between those who protect our freedoms and those who are being protected,'" Pelosi said in a statement. Sen. Roy Blunt, a Missouri Republican who served alongside Skelton, echoed the praise. "No member of the Congress was more dedicated to America's defense and those who defend us than Ike Skelton," Blunt said in a statement.

POLL: VAST GAPS IN BASIC VIEWS ON GENDER, RACE, RELIGION AND POLITICS. An almost unfathomable gap divides public attitudes on basic issues involving gender, race, religion and politics in America, fueled by dramatic ideological and partisan divisions that offer the prospect of more of the bitter political battles that played out in Washington this month, ABC News Pollster GARY LANGER writes. A new ABC News/Fusion poll, marking the launch of the Fusion television network, finds vast differences among groups in trust in government, immigration policy and beyond, including basic views on issues such as the role of religion and the value of diversity in politics, treatment of women in the workplace and the opportunities afforded to minorities in society more broadly. While these issues divide a variety of Americans, this poll, produced for ABC and Fusion by Langer Research Associates, finds that the gaps in nearly all cases are largest among partisan and ideological groups - so enormous and so fundamental that they seem to constitute visions of two distinctly different Americas.

WHY RUBIO FLIP-FLOPPED ON COMPREHENSIVE IMMIGRATION REFORM. Back in April, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., stood before cameras with the bipartisan "Gang of Eight" and joked he wasn't quite sure he was ready to sign onto their comprehensive immigration reform plan. "Actually, I changed my mind," Rubio joked to laughter as he pretended to walk away from the podium. "No, I'm kidding." But fast forward four months after the bill he helped craft passed the Senate, and Rubio's not joking anymore. Instead of advocating for the comprehensive bill he signed onto, Rubio's now saying a piecemeal approach is more "realistic." As first reported by Breitbart News, a spokesman for Rubio said "a series of individual bills" on immigration reform may be more practical than comprehensive immigration reform at this time. "In order to make progress, we need to be realistic in our expectations," Alex Conant, a spokesman for Rubio, told ABC News. "An 'all or nothing' strategy on immigration reform would result in nothing. What is keeping us from progress on a series of immigration issues on which there is strong consensus is the fear that a conference committee on a limited bill will be used to negotiate a comprehensive one. We should take that option off the table so that we can begin to move on the things we agree on." Conant told Politico that Rubio always favored a piecemeal approach but decided to forgo it to help strike a bipartisan solution.

MITCH MCCONNELL SLAMMED FROM BOTH SIDES IN NEW DUELING ADS. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has survived five Senate races, but a pair of new television ads from two of his opponents show how his bid for re-election in 2014 will be unlike any of his previous campaigns, according to ABC's ALEX LAZAR. The dueling campaign ads - from Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan Grimes, a Democrat, and Republican businessman Matt Bevin - underscore the challenge facing Republican McConnell. Grimes and Bevin released ads yesterday excoriating McConnell on his Senate record. Bevin's ad focused on McConnell's working with Democrats to help end the government shutdown. In Bevin's ad, conservative radio show host Mark Levin can be heard saying of McConnell, "It's not only that he's wrong about the positions he takes, he talks like a liberal." Grimes, 34, had a more startling ad, accusing McConnell of causing congressional gridlock and then taking credit for ending it. To make the point, the ad showed footage of a burning house. "Mitch McConnell can't light the house on fire, then claim credit for putting it out, especially while it's still burning," a voice-over says in the Grimes ad.

CONGRESS TO CONVENE BRIEFING ON AMANDA KNOX. With issues like immigration reform and the budget looming, Congress is turning its attention to a completely different subject: Amanda Knox, according to ABC's NICKI ROSSOLL. On Thursday two Washington State Democrats - Sen. Maria Cantwell and Rep. Adam Smith - are hosting a panel discussion about the third trial of Knox, who served jail time in Italy for murder before her sentence was overturned. Knox, who is from Seattle, was convicted in 2009 of murdering her British roommate, Meredith Kercher, in Perugia, Italy, with the help of her former boyfriend Rafaelle Sollecito. Knox was originally sentenced to 26 years in Italian prison, but after serving almost four years, she was released when an Italian appeals court threw out the original conviction. This March, the Italian Supreme Court issued a new ruling, saying that Knox must be retried for the murder of Kercher. With the re-trial of Knox now underway in Italy, Congress is getting involved. According to a letter sent from the offices of Cantwell and Smith, Thursday's "educational briefing" will feature analysis and insight from three expert panelists.


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