By Warren Strobel WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An email exchange released on Thursday shows Edward Snowden questioned the U.S. National Security Agency's legal training programs, but provides no evidence the former contractor complained internally about vast NSA surveillance programs that he later leaked to the media. Snowden responded in an email to the Washington Post that the release by U.S. officials "is incomplete." The release of the April 2013 emails between Snowden and the NSA's legal office is the latest round in a battle between Snowden, who casts himself as a crusading whistleblower, and U.S. security officials, who say he failed to report his concerns to superiors before acting. In an interview with NBC News on Wednesday, Snowden said he had raised alarms at multiple levels about the NSA's broad collection of phone, email and Internet connections. In a statement, the NSA said: "The e-mail did not raise allegations or concerns about wrongdoing or abuse, but posed a legal question that the Office of General Counsel addressed." "There are numerous avenues that Mr. Snowden could have used to raise other concerns or whistleblower allegations.
The head of the US Chamber of Commerce said the time has come to start a new chapter in relations between Cuba and the United States. "For too long, the relationship between our nations has been defined by our differences and shackled by our past," Thomas Donohue said on a visit to the communist-ruled island. Washington has had an economic embargo clamped on Cuba since 1962, and the two have never moved off a Cold War footing in their ties. Donohue, speaking at the end of a three-day visit accompanied by a high-ranking business delegation, noted that Cuba was changing some of its economic policies and that its private sector was "clearly growing."
US lawmakers called Thursday for the street outside China's embassy to be renamed in honor of jailed dissident Liu Xiaobo ahead of the 25th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square crackdown. A diverse group of US House members said that a name change on at least a section of the street in Washington would embolden Chinese rights campaigners as Beijing authorities work hard to censor any mention of the 1989 pro-democracy uprising which was crushed with deadly force. "This modest effort would undoubtedly give hope to the Chinese people who continue to yearn for basic human rights and representative democracy and would remind their oppressors that they are in fact on the wrong side of history," the lawmakers said in a letter to Mayor Vincent Gray and the District of Columbia Council.
By Daniel Trotta HAVANA (Reuters) - The head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce on Thursday urged Cuba to speed up and extend market-style economic reforms, saying world investors would respond and that it might be the best path toward better relations with the United States. Chamber President Thomas Donohue extolled the virtues of capitalism and free markets in the communist-ruled country, once taboo subjects here, and told Cubans that reducing excessive government control of the economy was the best assurance of prosperity. "The more Cuba can do to demonstrate its commitment to reform, and the more it can do to address and resolve disputes in our relations, the better the prospects will be for changes in U.S. policy," Donohue said in a speech before Foreign Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca, a host of other Cuban officials and university students. Donohue also met with Cuban President Raul Castro, state television said, without reporting details of their conversation.
By Matt Spetalnick WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama’s second term was supposed to be a crowning opportunity to make his mark on the world stage, but instead he's leading an intense effort to redefine his foreign policy record – and the odds look stacked against him. An administration-wide public relations blitz, which Obama launched with a big foreign policy speech this week, has done little to quell critics who frequently pan his global approach as rudderless, as the White House lurches from crisis to crisis. While Obama has outlined a strategy that includes both a strong military and the diplomatic tools of alliances and sanctions to provide global leadership, it is unclear if he and his aides have the vision – let alone time - to change the perception of a presidency with eroding global influence. “And he faces a series of problems in which quick-and-easy American fixes are really not available.” Topping the list is Ukraine, where Obama and other Western leaders were powerless to prevent Russia’s seizure of Crimea.
By Warren Strobel WASHINGTON (Reuters) - An email exchange released on Thursday shows that Edward Snowden questioned the U.S. National Security Agency's legal training programs, but provides no evidence the former contractor complained internally about vast NSA surveillance programs that he later leaked to the media. The release of the April 2013 emails between Snowden and the NSA's legal office is the latest round in a battle between Snowden, who casts himself as a crusading whistleblower, and U.S. security officials, who say he failed to report his concerns to superiors before acting. In an interview with NBC News on Wednesday, Snowden said he had raised alarms at multiple levels about the NSA's broad collection of phone, email and Internet connections. In a statement, the NSA said: "The e-mail did not raise allegations or concerns about wrongdoing or abuse, but posed a legal question that the Office of General Counsel addressed." "There are numerous avenues that Mr. Snowden could have used to raise other concerns or whistleblower allegations.
US lawmakers moved Thursday to boost funding of the national background check system for firearm sales, a small but symbolic step toward broader gun law reform following recent mass shootings. The measure provides $19.5 million in additional grant financing to help states submit records to a federal database aimed at preventing felons and the mentally ill from buying weapons. Supporters of the amendment, which passed 260 to 145 as part of a $51 billion spending bill for the Commerce and Justice Departments expected to be approved later Thursday, say the measure would keep guns out of the hands of potentially dangerous people. "Our national criminal background check system is only as good as the data you put in it, and right now all the information isn't getting into the system," the bill's sponsors, led by House Democrat Mike Thompson, said in a statement immediately after the vote.
Russian troops massed on Ukraine's borders are moving back toward Moscow, but there are still "danger signs," US Secretary of State John Kerry said late Thursday. "There is evidence of Russians crossing over, trained personnel from Chechnya trained in Russia, who've come across to stir things up, to engage in fighting," the top US diplomat told PBS television. He urged Russia to take advantage of the recent presidential elections and "build a road forward where Ukraine becomes a bridge between the West and the East." "The troops that were on the border are moving back towards Moscow not towards Kiev," he said.
United Nations (United States) (AFP) - The UN Security Council expressed "disappointment and concern" Thursday that an election of a new Lebanese president has not occurred and demanded that polls be held without delay. In a unanimous declaration, the Council's 15 member states urged the country's parliament "to uphold Lebanon's long standing democratic tradition and to work to ensure that presidential elections take place as soon as possible and without external interference." Over the past two months, Lebanon's parliament convened five times to try to elect a successor to President Michel Sleiman but failed each time due to a lack of quorum. The Council said it "reiterates its full support for the government of Lebanon to discharge its duties during this interim period."