By Associated Press,
The world knows Nelson Mandela as a man who forever changed the course of modern history and who will surely continue to leave his mark long after his death Thursday at the age of 95.
You may know that he spent 27 years in prison, that he led South Africa out of apartheid and that he served as his nation’s first black president.
But did you know about the role of rugby in his legacy? His musings on Valentine’s Day? The lessons he taught sympathetic prison guards during his time behind bars?
Here are some details from Mandela’s life that you might not have known.
FATHER OF THE NATION
Nelson Mandela’s place as South Africa’s premier hero is so secure that the central bank released new banknotes in 2012 showing his face. Busts and statues in his likeness dot the country and buildings, squares and other places are named after him. At Soweto’s Regina Mundi Catholic church, a center of protests and funeral services for activists during the apartheid years, there is a stained glass image of Mandela with arms raised. South African Airways even emblazoned his silhouetted image on planes.
A $1.25 million project to digitally preserve a record of Mandela’s life went online last year at http://archive.nelsonmandela.org. The project by Google and Mandela’s archivists gives researchers — and anyone else — access to hundreds of documents, photographs and videos. In one 1995 note, written in lines of neat handwriting in blue ink, Mandela muses on Valentine’s day. It appears to be a draft of a letter to a young admirer, in which Mandela said his rural upbringing by illiterate parents left him “colossally ignorant” about simple things like a holiday devoted to romance.
At his inauguration, Mandela stood hand on heart, saluted by white generals as he sang along to two anthems: the apartheid-era Afrikaans “Die Stem” (”The Voice”) and the African “Nkosi Sikelel’ iAfrika” (”Lord Bless Africa”).
A NEW LIFE
When Mandela went free after 27 years, he walked hand-in-hand with his wife Winnie out of a prison on the South African mainland, and raised his right fist in triumph. In his autobiography, “Long Walk to Freedom,” he would write: “As I finally walked through those gates ... I felt — even at the age of seventy-one — that my life was beginning anew.”
A WAYS TO GO
Mandela is widely credited with helping to avert race-driven chaos as South Africa emerged from apartheid. But he could not forge lasting solutions to poverty, unemployment and other social ills that still plague his country. Though relatively stable, it has struggled to live up to its rosy depiction as the “Rainbow Nation.”
Since apartheid ended, the country has peacefully held four parliamentary elections and elected three presidents, and Mandela’s African National Congress said in 2013 the economy had expanded 83 percent since 1994. But corruption in the party has undercut some of its early promise, and the white minority is far wealthier than the black majority, partly fueling violent crime.
Mandela’s last public appearance was in 2010. Bundled up against the cold, he smiled broadly and waved to the crowd at the Soccer City stadium during the closing ceremony of the World Cup, an event that allowed his country to take the world spotlight. Mandela had kept a low profile during the monthlong tournament, deciding against attending the opening ceremony after the death of his great-grand daughter in a traffic accident following a World Cup concert.
MANDELA THE RECONCILER
Mandela was born the son of a tribal chief in Transkei, a Xhosa homeland. Many South Africans of all races call him by his clan name, Madiba, which means “reconciler,” as a token of affection and respect.
THE HARSHER SIDE
Despite his saintly image, Mandela could be harsh. When black journalists mildly criticized his government, he painted them as stooges of the whites who owned the media. Whites with complaints were sometimes dismissed as pining for their old privileges. To critics of his closeness to Fidel Castro and Moammar Gadhafi, Mandela insisted he wouldn’t forsake supporters of the anti-apartheid struggle.
Mandela eventually turned to fighting AIDS, publicly acknowledging in 2005 that his son, Makgatho, had died of the disease. The nation, which has the most people living with HIV in the world at 5.6 million, still faces stigma and high rates of infection.
Mandela celebrated holidays and hosted dignitaries among the huts of rural Qunu in a replica of the prison guard’s home where he lived during his final days of confinement. Ever self-deprecating, Mandela maintained he chose to recreate the home from Victor Verster prison because he was already familiar with it and wouldn’t “have to wander at night looking for the kitchen.” But his fellow South Africans saw the decision as an inspiring way to transform the old structure of imprisonment into one of freedom. Many of Mandela’s close relatives live in Qunu, and the family burial plot is just yards from the home.
‘A DEMOCRATIC AND FREE SOCIETY’
A statement Mandela made during his 1964 sabotage trial revealed his resolve in the fight to end white racist rule. “During my lifetime I have dedicated myself to this struggle of the African people,” Mandela said. “I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.”
Two months later, he and seven other defendants were sentenced to life in prison.
UNITED BY RUGBY
In 1995, Mandela strode onto the field at the Rugby World Cup final in Johannesburg wearing South African colors and bringing the overwhelmingly white crowd of more than 60,000 to its feet. “Nelson! Nelson! Nelson!” they chanted as the president congratulated the victorious home team. Mandela’s decision to wear the Springbok emblem, the symbol once hated by blacks, conveyed the message that rugby, so long shunned by the black population, was now for all South Africans.
Mandela became South Africa’s first black president in 1994. At the close of his inauguration speech, he said: “Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.”
“Let freedom reign. The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement! God bless Africa!”
Mandela was confined to the harsh Robben Island prison off the coast of Cape Town for most of his time behind bars. He and others quarried limestone there, working seven hours a day nearly every day for 12 years, until forced labor was abolished on the island. In secret, Mandela — inmate No. 46664 — wrote at night in his tiny concrete-floored cell.
It was forbidden to quote him or publish his photo, but go-betweens ferried messages from prisoners to anti-apartheid leaders in exile. Prisoners gathered in small groups for Socratic seminars, and Mandela offered lessons on the movement to guards he thought would be open to persuasion. All the guards were white; all the prisoners were black, mixed race, or Asian.
‘LOOK INTO YOURSELF’
“People tend to measure themselves by external accomplishments, but jail allows a person to focus on internal ones; such as honesty, sincerity, simplicity, humility, generosity and an absence of variety,” Mandela says in one of the many quotations displayed at the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg. “You learn to look into yourself.”
NELSON AND WINNIE
Nelson Mandela divorced Winnie Madikizela-Mandela in 1996, ending a powerful political partnership that had lasted through decades of struggle. As he remained behind bars, she became an activist leader in her own right, leading marches with a fist raised and building a base among the radical wing of the African National Congress. Madikizela-Mandela lost influence as Mandela pushed the ANC along a moderate course.
They had grown apart politically by the time he emerged from prison, and soon the personal toll of the years of physical separation became apparent. But after Mandela retired from public life and focused on the family that had been relegated to second place during his struggle against apartheid, the mother of two of his daughters was welcome alongside his third wife at Christmases and birthdays.
After his retirement from the presidency, Mandela regularly worked from an office in the recently refurbished Johannesburg building that houses the Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory. The office includes framed photographs of Mandela in healthier times with his wife, Graca Machel, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, fellow activist Walter Sisulu, and others.
A boxing glove, cricket bat and a British police helmet are among the gifts on display. Glass cases show penned messages in books given to Mandela from people including Nadine Gordimer, the South African author and winner of the Nobel literature prize in 1991. Cornel West, an American civil rights activist, addressed his book, “Democracy Matters,” to: “Bro’ Nelson Mandela.”
Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
By: Jessica Moskowitz
'Knockout Game' Hurts Random Victims
It's a dangerous game, now reported in at least six states, and it could happen to anyone walking down the street.
One minute you're minding your own business, the next a complete stranger deliberately knocks you to the ground.
Across the country, police are struggling to tally the full impact of this deadly game. CNN's Pamela Brown reports.
By: Fox News
A recent string of attacks tied to a dangerous game called “Knockout” -- where unsuspecting residents are targeted and sucker-punched – is being investigated as possible hate crimes.
New York police are looking into the growing trend, WPIX reports, after attacks in predominately Jewish neighborhoods in Brooklyn.
The most recent attack was caught on video last week in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, where a group of ten men spotted a man walking alone, punched him and kept moving, according to the station.
But New York is not the only place to see the “Knockout Game” being played out.
In Washington, D.C., Tamera Jackson, 27, told WJLA that a group of teens on bicycles came up behind her last week as she walked home and one of them punched her in the back of the head before the group sped away, laughing.
“For the fun of it.”- Teen, speaking of 'Knockout Game'
According to Fox 31 Denver, similar attacks have occurred in St. Louis and Pittsburgh, where a teacher was knocked out by a 15-year-old as he walked home from school last month. The attack was caught on a security camera video, and the teen was charged with assault.
And in New Jersey, CBS 2 reports, video footage shows Ralph Santiago, 46, randomly targeted for knockout by a group of teens. Santiago was later found dead with his neck broken and head lodged between iron fence posts, according to NJ.com.
Video shows Santiago walking during daytime in an alley, and just as he’s about to pass a pack of teenagers, one launches the fatal, knockout blow.
And what’s the point?
“For the fun of it,” one teen said in the video.
In September, a 13-year-old boy was sentenced to 18 months of confinement for the beating death of a 51-year-old man in upstate New York.
The teen had pleaded guilty to assault and attempted assault, admitting that he started the fatal beating by attempting to knock the man out with a single punch.
The teen said he and his friends were playing a street game called "knockout." His punch apparently had little to no effect, but the follow-up from a 16-year-old boy caused bleeding in the victim's brain, and he died in late May.
The 16-year-old co-defendant was found guilty last month in Onondaga County Family Court of second-degree manslaughter and received the same sentence.
By Lauren Hockenson, Giga Om
Facebook on Thursday announced the final phase of removing an old privacy feature from the social media platform. The feature, which allows users to be hidden from search, will finally be taken away for users who have it enabled.
The feature, called "Who can look up your Timeline by name?" was removed from Privacy settings last year (noted in a December blog post) for those who didn't have it enabled. When enabled, the setting removes the ability for users to access a Timeline profile via search, even when a user puts in the exact name of the person he or she is locating. Now, users that still have that feature enabled will begin to see removal notices from Facebook, indicating that they will be present and visible in Graph Search along with the rest of the Facebook user base.
Facebook says in the blog post that the feature is a vestigial precaution that reaches back before the platform had a sophisticated search algorithm. When Facebook search acted as a mere directory, removing oneself from search made it more difficult for strangers to access a given profile. But now, as Open Graph opens up to search more settings and there is greater visibility of Timelines for friends of friends, the importance of finding a person through search has diminished while controlling the content on any given Timeline has become more important. Facebook says that the feature also caused hiccups in the user experience:
"People told us that they found it confusing when they tried looking for someone who they knew personally and couldn't find them in search results, or when two people were in a Facebook Group and then couldn't find each other through search."Of course, the sunsetting of this feature for those who care about it the most only stresses the importance of checking and updating Facebook privacy settings often. Now, it's more important to consider the content of the Timeline itself: a "private Timeline" is only such when content is marked explicitly "Friends Only." As Facebook continues to make search easier, it's important to keep in mind how these changes impact social media privacy at large.
By Susan Davis, USA TODAY
WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans failed to move forward Tuesday with a piecemeal approach to fund popular parts of the federal government to lessen the impact of the first government shutdown in 17 years.
House and Senate Republicans had offered short-term funding plans to keep open national parks, the Department of Veterans' Affairs, and other government services in the nation's capital. House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers, R-Ky. said the piecemeal approach would "continue to move the ball down the field" towards finding an agreement to resume full government funding.
But the GOP efforts failed to win the necessary support in the House to advance to the Senate. The votes fell well short of the two-thirds threshold needed to suspend House rules.
The Senate had already warned that the plan would meet fate there as every previous attempt by the House to amend the stopgap funding bill. In that chamber, Democrats maintain the only way to end the shutdown is for the House to allow a vote on a stopgap measure to fund the government through mid-November that does not include legislation affecting President Obama's health care law.
Senate Appropriations Chairwoman Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., said she did not support funding the government in "bits and pieces."
"We're the entire United States of America. You keep the whole government going, that's what you're supposed to do," she said. "All they have to do in the House is let the House vote on the Senate (bill) and let the House work it's will."
The White House agreed. "These piecemeal efforts are not serious, and they are no way to run a government. If House Republicans are legitimately concerned about the impacts of a shutdown — which extend across government from our small businesses to women, children and seniors — they should do their job and pass a clean CR to reopen the government," said Amy Brundage, a White House spokeswoman.
Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin, D-Ill., said Democrats were not against debating some of the proposals that Republicans offered in the weeks leading up to the shutdown on the Affordable Care Act. He cited as an example a proposal to repeal a 2.3% tax on medical devices enacted to help pay for the law. However, Durbin said Democrats would not negotiate on the stopgap spending bill, or on a pending vote to increase the debt ceiling, the nation's borrowing limit.
STORY: 27 Questions and Answers
STORY: 66 Questions and Answers
"After the CR and the debt ceiling, I have been open to that," Durbin said, "Doing this with a gun to your head, as we've said over and over again, is not the appropriate way to bargain."
House Republicans huddled in private earlier Tuesday, and lawmakers showed no signs of losing cohesion on the first day of the shutdown. Republicans are bullish about the politics of a shutdown and they have reason to be, said David Wasserman, an analyst for the non-partisan Cook Political Report.
"Democrats have always believed a shutdown would finally make voters pay attention to how 'extreme' House Republicans are. So far there's not a ton of evidence that the game has changed," Wasserman said.
By Paul Richter
UNITED NATIONS -- Iran’s new president, Hassan Rouhani, told world leaders Tuesday that his government is prepared to “engage immediately in result-oriented” talks with the United States, but also complained about American economic sanctions and military intervention in the Middle East.
In a widely anticipated speech at the United Nations General Assembly, Rouhani said that Iran and the U.S. “can arrive at a framework to manage our differences,” adding that his government has no desire to increase tensions between the two longtime adversaries.
He said he had listened carefully to President Obama’s speech in the morning, in which the U.S. leader called for an intense diplomatic effort to overcome differences about Iran’s disputed nuclear program.
The 64-year-old cleric emphasized his desire for tolerance and moderation. But despite the predictions of Western diplomats, his speech included no major gestures to win over Iran's critics, such as an acknowledgment of the Holocaust.
Rouhani's remarks were far milder than those of his fiery predecessor, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, at similar gatherings. But like Ahmadinejad, he did not miss an opportunity to catalog what he sees as America's misdeeds and staunchly defended Iran’s policies abroad.
He condemned the United States' use of drones and recalled the “millions” of lives lost in Iraq.He complained about American activists who have pushed for tough action against Iran, calling them “warmongering pressure groups.”
And he faulted U.S. officials for repeating that “the military option is on the table” when he said the preferred option should be peace.
Rouhani said his election in June showed the “moderation” of the Iranian public and said the country “poses absolutely no threat to the world or region.”
He said Western sanctions were “violent” and hurt not only their intended target, but also unintended victims, as well as the countries that imposed them.
Cliff Kupchan, an Iran specialist at the Eurasia Group consulting firm, said Rouhani's speech was "the minimum reach-out he could have done."
"Why is a difficult question," Kupchan said. "Probably domestic politics, but could be he's tougher than we thought."
By: Yamiche Alcindor and John Bacon, USA TODAY
Judge adds manslaughter possibility but rejects prosecution request for third-degree murder. Jury deliberations could begin Friday.
SANFORD, Fla. -- Trayvon Martin is dead because George Zimmerman "tracked" and then shot Trayvon Martin instead of waiting for police to arrive, prosecutor Bernie de la Rionda told the jury at Zimmerman's murder trial.
De la Rionda, presenting the prosecution's closing argument, accused Zimmerman of taking the law into his own hands during their February 2012 confrontation.
The defense team, scheduled to close Friday, has maintained that Trayvon, 17, was the aggressor and that Zimmerman, 29, shot him in self-defense.
Using a projector, de la Rionda showed jurors a photo of Zimmerman taken at the police station the night of the shooting -- alongside a close up of Trayvon's dead body.
De la Rionda noted that Trayvon's hands had no blood on them, said his hoodie string may have been pulled down by Zimmerman in a struggle.
"His (Trayvon's) body speaks to you," de la Rionda said. "It proves to you that this defendant is lying about what happened."
De la Rionda focused on his theory that Trayvon was an innocent teen who was wrongly profiled and murdered by Zimmerman. De la Rionda told jury the key word in the prosecution case was "assumptions."
"He automatically assumed that Trayvon Martin was a criminal and that is why we are here," de la Rionda said of Zimmerman. Later he said Trayvon was not trespassing in the gated community, but rather was being a normal teen making a trip to the store.
De la Rionda also painted Zimmerman as someone who already knew he could ultimately win any confrontation with Trayvon.
"He's got a gun, he's got the equalizer," de la Rionda said. He asked the six-woman jury to use "your God-given common sense" and find the former neighborhood watch volunteer guilty of second-degree murder.
Earlier, Judge Debra Nelson agreed to add manslaughter to the second-degree murder charge Zimmerman already faced, but rejected a prosecution request that a third-degree murder count also be added.
Zimmerman's attorneys had objected to adding any lesser charges.
The last-minute effort to add charges was seen by some legal experts as an indication that prosecutors were not confident about their chances for a second-degree murder conviction. Zimmerman has been portrayed by prosecutors as a wanna-be cop.
"They aren't going to go all or nothing," said Jose Baez, a Florida criminal defense attorney, of state prosecutors. "They aren't blind to the fact that they haven't proven second-degree murder." Baez successfully defended Casey Anthony, a Florida mother accused of killing her daughter in a high-profile capital murder case.
Second-degree murder in Florida carries a possible life sentence. If convicted of manslaughter, Zimmerman could get up to 30 years.
Elizabeth Parker, a Florida criminal defense attorney who has been monitoring the case, said the third-degree murder count could bring a sentence of 25 years to life in prison.
Prosecutors also had considered but then decided against trying to add the charge of aggravated assault, which would carry no more than a five-year prison term.
The third-degree murder charge request drew a heated argument. Third-degree murder can involve death that results from committing a felony, even if the accused did not mean to kill the victim.
Assistant State Attorney Richard Mantei, arguing for the count, said Zimmerman committed "child abuse" -- a felony -- on Trayvon.
Don West argued against their claim, saying child abuse had never been mentioned during the trial. He called the attempt to add the third-degree murder charge a "trick by the state."
Zimmerman's attorneys get three hours for their closing Friday. The state will then get one hour to present rebuttal statements.
The jury could begin deliberations Friday.
All you can eat ribs -- by the dumpster.
A Golden Corral franchise is being accused of improper food handling after photos and a video surfaced online that claim to show unsanitary conditions at the nationwide buffet chain.
Separately, a Reddit user named GCWhistleblower posted photos purporting to show a different Golden Corral kitchen overflowing with garbage and food.
Employee Brandon Huber posted a video on Youtube, taken while he worked at a location near Port Orange, Fla., which shows raw hamburger patties swarmed by flies near the restaurant's dumpster.
"I'm an employee here, been working here for a long time, and I don't feel that this is right," Huber says to the camera. "I mean look at it, what do you think?"
"Let me show you just how disgusting this is," Huber continues, as the camera pans to reveal stacks of food next to the dumpsters including raw baby back ribs, green bean casserole, pot roast, chicken, ham, and bacon.
A statement provided to the website Consumerist via Eric Holm at Metro Corral Partners, a franchisee who owns several Golden Corral locations in Florida and Georgia, including the Port Orange location, reads:
"A video was recently posted showing an incident of improper food handling at our Port Orange, Fla., location. None of these items were served to a single customer. All were destroyed within the hour at the direction of management. Brandon Huber, the employee who made the video, participated in the disposal of the food.
The following day, the father of the employee, allegedly posted an offer to sell the video for $5,000, which was not accepted.
The manager involved in the improper storage was terminated for failing to follow approved food handling procedures," Holm's statement said.
By Mark K. Matthews and Scott Powers, Orlando Sentinel
WASHINGTON — The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday nixed a key provision of the landmark Voting Rights Act, clearing the way for election officials in Florida and 14 other states to change their voting rules without automatic review by federal authorities.
In ruling for the 5-4 majority, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote that the long-standing civil-rights law relied on outdated data in forcing all or part of 15 states — including five counties in Florida — to clear changes with the courts or U.S. Department of Justice.
One immediate effect for Florida could be the resumption of a controversial voter-rolls check that state elections officials began last year but halted in the fall. The state wants to use federal data to identify noncitizens illegally registered to vote.
In justifying the decision, Roberts wrote that the requirement for federal oversight of some states and counties was based on "decades-old data and eradicated practices," such as literacy tests. He cited improved rates of black-voter turnout in the South as a sign of progress.
Though the high court struck down the old standards, it left the door open for federal officials to regain their supervisory role. But that would require Congress to draw up a new set of guidelines to determine which states would face oversight — a steep climb given the partisan gridlock on Capitol Hill today.
Even so, President Barack Obama — echoing the frustration expressed Tuesday by voter-protection groups nationwide — vowed to keep fighting for the Voting Rights Act, which was first signed into law in 1965 in the aftermath of violent attacks against civil-rights protesters.
"While today's decision is a setback, it doesn't represent the end of our efforts to end voting discrimination," he said in a statement. "I am calling on Congress to pass legislation to ensure every American has equal access to the polls."
In the meantime, the states, counties and townships previously restricted by the Voting Rights Act now are free to change election rules without prior federal review, including revisions to the number of early-voting days.
Though only five Florida counties — Hillsborough, Collier, Monroe, Hendry and Hardee — have been under federal supervision, the law has been at the center of recent fights over statewide changes to election protocol.
Civil-rights groups used the law to as part of their challenge to efforts by Gov. Rick Scott in 2011 to cut the number of early-voting days from 14 to eight and impose tougher restrictions on third-party groups that register voters — decisions later reversed by either the courts or the Legislature.
A less robust Voting Rights Act could make it harder to fight these efforts in the future, they said.
"This governor and this Legislature have been a walking advertisement as to why federal oversight is needed," said Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.
As an example, ACLU officials cited a recent push by the Scott administration to purge the voter rolls of noncitizens.
The campaign — which at one point threatened the voting rights of two World War II veterans — was put on hold by state officials until the Supreme Court issued a ruling on the Voting Rights Act.
Florida officials had started systematically reviewing voter registrations with a federal database at the Department of Homeland Security to try to identify noncitizens illegally registered to vote.
That effort identified 207 possible noncitizens who had registered to vote last year, though records showed only 39 of them had ever actually voted. Florida has nearly 12 million voters.
The plan was quickly challenged in another federal lawsuit, brought against Florida by the voting-rights-advocacy group Mi Familia, which contended Florida needed to get preclearance to run those checks for voters in the five counties covered under the Voting Rights Act.
Rather than fight the Mi Familia lawsuit, Florida Secretary of State Ken Detzner agreed to a court stay that put the state's entire voter check on hold to see what the Supreme Court would do.
Now the secretary of state intends to resume those efforts "and anticipates doing so with plenty of time to prepare for the next general election," Chris Cate, spokesman for the Secretary of State's Office, said in a statement.
"Florida remains very supportive of the Voting Rights Act, as we were before this ruling, but we are pleased that all of Florida's 67 counties can now implement election law at the same time," Cate said.
Scott echoed that sentiment Tuesday at a news briefing.
"Anytime that we have the opportunity to make our own decisions, I think that's great for our state," he said.
By and in Washington The Guardian
Senior politicians reveal that US counter-terrorism efforts have swept up personal data from American citizens for years
The scale of America's surveillance state was laid bare on Thursday as senior politicians revealed that the US counter-terrorism effort had swept up swaths of personal data from the phone calls of millions of citizens for years.
After the revelation by the Guardian of a sweeping secret court order that authorised the FBI to seize all call records from a subsidiary of Verizon, the Obama administration sought to defuse mounting anger over what critics described as the broadest surveillance ruling ever issued.
A White House spokesman said that laws governing such orders "are something that have been in place for a number of years now" and were vital for protecting national security. Dianne Feinstein, the Democratic chairwoman of the Senate intelligence committee, said the Verizon court order had been in place for seven years. "People want the homeland kept safe," Feinstein said.
But as the implications of the blanket approval for obtaining phone data reverberated around Washington and beyond, anger grew among other politicians.
Intelligence committee member Mark Udall, who has previously warned in broad terms about the scale of government snooping, said: "This sort of widescale surveillance should concern all of us and is the kind of government overreach I've said Americans would find shocking." Former vice-president Al Gore described the "secret blanket surveillance" as "obscenely outrageous".
The Verizon order was made under the provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa) as amended by the Patriot Act of 2001, passed in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. But one of the authors of the Patriot Act, Republican congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, said he was troubled by the Guardian revelations. He said that he had written to the attorney general, Eric Holder, questioning whether "US constitutional rights were secure".
He said: "I do not believe the broadly drafted Fisa order is consistent with the requirements of the Patriot Act. Seizing phone records of millions of innocent people is excessive and un-American."
The White House sought to defend what it called "a critical tool in protecting the nation from terrorist threats". White House spokesman Josh Earnest said Fisa orders were used to "support important and highly sensitive intelligence collection operations" on which members of Congress were fully briefed.
"The intelligence community is conducting court-authorized intelligence activities pursuant to a public statute with the knowledge and oversight of Congress and the intelligence community in both houses of Congress," Earnest said.
He pointed out that the order only relates to the so-called metadata surrounding phone calls rather than the content of the calls themselves. "The order reprinted overnight does not allow the government to listen in on anyone's telephone calls," Earnest said.
"The information acquired does not include the content of any communications or the name of any subscriber. It relates exclusively to call details, such as a telephone number or the length of a telephone call."
But such metadata can provide authorities with vast knowledge about a caller's identity. Particularly when cross-checked against other public records, the metadata can reveal someone's name, address, driver's licence, credit history, social security number and more. Government analysts would be able to work out whether the relationship between two people was ongoing, occasional or a one-off.
The disclosure has reignited longstanding debates in the US over the proper extent of the government's domestic spying powers.
Ron Wyden of Oregon, a member of the Senate intelligence committee who, along with Udell, has expressed concern about the extent of US government surveillance, warned of "sweeping, dragnet surveillance". He said: "I am barred by Senate rules from commenting on some of the details at this time, However, I believe that when law-abiding Americans call their friends, who they call, when they call, and where they call from is private information.
"Collecting this data about every single phone call that every American makes every day would be a massive invasion of Americans' privacy."
'Beyond Orwellian'Jameel Jaffer, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said: "From a civil liberties perspective, the program could hardly be any more alarming. It's a program in which some untold number of innocent people have been put under the constant surveillance of government agents.
"It is beyond Orwellian, and it provides further evidence of the extent to which basic democratic rights are being surrendered in secret to the demands of unaccountable intelligence agencies."
Under the Bush administration, officials in security agencies had disclosed to reporters the large-scale collection of call records data by the NSA, but this is the first time significant and top-secret documents have revealed the continuation of the practice under President Obama.
The order names Verizon Business Services, a division of Verizon Communications. In its first-quarter earnings report, published in April, Verizon Communications listed about 10 million commercial lines out of a total of 121 million customers. The court order, which lasts for three months from 25 April, does not specify what type of lines are being tracked. It is not clear whether any additional orders exist to cover Verizon's wireless and residential customers, or those of other phone carriers.
Fisa court orders typically direct the production of records pertaining to a specific, named target suspected of being an agent of a terrorist group or foreign state, or a finite set of individually named targets. The unlimited nature of the records being handed over to the NSA is extremely unusual.
Feinstein said she believed the order had been in place for some time. She said: "As far as I know this is the exact three-month renewal of what has been the case for the past seven years. This renewal is carried out by the [foreign intelligence surveillance] court under the business records section of the Patriot Act. Therefore it is lawful. It has been briefed to Congress."
The Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement that the secret court order was unprecedented. "As far as we know this order from the Fisa court is the broadest surveillance order to ever have been issued: it requires no level of suspicion and applies to all Verizon [business services] subscribers anywhere in the US.
"The Patriot Act's incredibly broad surveillance provision purportedly authorizes an order of this sort, though its constitutionality is in question and several senators have complained about it."
Russell Tice, a retired National Security Agency intelligence analyst and whistleblower, said: "What is going on is much larger and more systemic than anything anyone has ever suspected or imagined."
Although an anonymous senior Obama administration official said that "on its face" the court order revealed by the Guardian did not authorise the government to listen in on people's phone calls, Tice now believes the NSA has constructed such a capability.
"I figured it would probably be about 2015" before the NSA had "the computer capacity … to collect all digital communications word for word," Tice said. "But I think I'm wrong. I think they have it right now."
By Scott Wilson and Zachary A. Goldfarb
President Obama said Tuesday he will revive his push to close the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a first-term campaign promise that a Democratic-led Congress rejected as impractical and potentially unsafe.
With a majority of Guantanamo’s 166 detainees on a mass hunger strike, Obama said at a White House news conference that the existence of the facility damages the country’s image abroad, costs too much money and undermines U.S. counterterrorism efforts by serving as a recruiting tool for militants.
“I’m going to go back at this,” he said. “I’m going to reengage with Congress to try to make the case that this is not something that’s in the best interests of the American people.”
Obama’s appearance before the media Tuesday highlighted how much his second and final term remains consumed by the unfinished business of his first.
From his policy toward Syria to health-care legislation to his inability to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay, Obama faced many of the same questions that have defined much of his time in office.
He used long, sometimes defensive answers to portray himself as undaunted by the unresolved challenges, yet also limited in his ability to secure the changes he has sought because of his continuing confrontation with a divided Congress.
That self-assessment of his political power also is largely consistent with his message to the nation since Democrats lost control of the House in 2010. His domestic agenda has largely ground to a halt since then.
Now his window for progress in Congress is even smaller than it once was, and may close entirely after the 2014 midtermsunless his party can take control of both chambers.
It was unclear Tuesday how he intends to revive his political prospects after setbacks on gun control and fiscal negotiations to avoid across-the-board spending cuts — known as sequestration — that he acknowledged are undermining the economy.
“Rumors of my demise may be a little exaggerated at this point,” Obama said during the news conference, in a phrase reminiscent of Bill Clinton’s 1995 assertion of his own relevance after his party lost the House the previous year.
But in responding to a journalist’s assertion that he appears powerless in dealing with Congress, Obama responded, “You seem to suggest that somehow, these folks over there have no responsibilities and that my job is to somehow get them to behave.”
“That’s their job,” he said.
The news conference fell on the 100th day of what for Obama has already been a difficult second term. Just this month, he lost his high-profile bid for stricter gun control following the December shootings in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and six educators.
Days after that Senate defeat, the first large-scale bombing in the post-Sept. 11, 2001 era killed three and wounded more than 250 others near the finish line of the Boston Marathon.
Last week, his administration also informed Congress that it has “varying degrees of confidence” in evidence suggesting that chemical weapons have been used in Syria’s civil war, which has killed more than 70,000 people.
One issue that is making progress in Congress, largely without Obama’s direct help, is immigration legislation that many Republicans back as a way to bolster support among Hispanic voters.
The president said that passing an immigration overhaul would be a “historic achievement.” He also expressed optimism that a series of recent meetings with Republican senators could lead to a budget agreement.
“There’s a genuine desire on many of their parts to move past not only sequester but Washington dysfunction,” Obama said.
Even his health-care law — the signature legislation of his presidency — remains a work in progress. Obama defended the complicated implementation process that will extend health care to the estimated 15 percent of the population that does not have it.
In assuring the public that the process is not nearly as messy as some members of Congress have portrayed it, Obama said anyone who has health insurance will probably see no further changes as the law takes full effect. He also warned of challenges ahead.
“Even if we do everything perfectly, there will still be glitches and bumps,” Obama said.
His pledge for a renewed effort to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay comes as the hunger strike by detainees has highlighted the legal ambiguities surrounding their detention. Obama has been working to shutter the prison since the day after he took office in 2009; on Tuesday he again cited Congress as the chief obstacle.
Of the 166 detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, 100 are on a hunger strike, with 21 being force-fed, according to Lt. Col. Samuel House, a spokesman for Joint Task Force Guantanamo. House said five of the hunger-striking detainees are being treated in a hospital at the base, but none has a life-threatening condition.
The Navy also sent 40 additional medical personnel to Guantanamo Bay over the weekend in response to the increasing numbers of detainees on hunger strike. The military said the move was planned several weeks ago.
Defending the move, Obama said Tuesday, “I don’t want these individuals to die.”
According to lawyers for the detainees, the initial catalyst for the three-month-old hunger strike was newly aggressive searches by guards that involved the manhandling of the Koran.
The military said all searches of Korans were conducted by Muslim cultural advisers, not by the guard force. They noted that in the past detainees have used their Korans to hide contraband.
The hunger strike has since become a wider protest against what the detainees viewed as the administration’s abandonment of its effort to close the facility, according to both the military and detainees’ lawyers.
About 86 detainees at Guantanamo have been cleared for transfer home or resettlement in a third country by a Justice Department-led interagency task force. But the transfer process ground to a halt after Congress imposed restrictions on moving detainees.
Human rights groups praised Obama’s decision to resurrect efforts to close the military detention facility, but said he already has the power to act despite congressional restrictions.
“President Obama is right to recommit to closing Guantanamo. But it’s time to do more than talk,” said Zeke Johnson, director of Amnesty International USA’s Security With Human Rights Campaign, in a statement.
Peter Finn contributed to this report.
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