Showing posts with label Government Agency. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Government Agency. Show all posts

January 19, 2018

Trump"s Conscience Law Will Allow Medical Personnel from Attending to Gays


 No abortions for you hnoey but you can have the cross of Christ and his love for people like me

Health care workers who want to refuse to treat patients because of religious or moral beliefs will have a new defender in the Trump administration.

The top civil rights official at the Department of Health and Human Services is creating the Division of Conscience and Religious Freedom to protect doctors, nurses and other health care workers who refuse to take part in procedures like abortion or treat certain people because of moral or religious objections.

"Never forget that religious freedom is a primary freedom, that it is a civil right that deserves enforcement and respect," said Roger Severino, the director of HHS's Office for Civil Rights, at a ceremony to announce the new division.

The establishment of the division reverses an Obama-era policy that barred health care workers from refusing to treat transgender individuals or people who have had or are seeking abortions.

That Obama rule was challenged in court by the Franciscan Alliance, a Christian health care organization in Texas, and a judge in 2016 blocked enforcement as the case played out in court.

The new division appears to be primarily aimed at preventing health care workers from participating in abortion services that go against their religious beliefs. The division cites a 2011 federal regulation guiding the enforcement of conscience protections that mentions abortion more than 30 times.
Louise Melling, deputy legal director at the American Civil Liberties Union, said those conscience objections could expand to allow health workers to refuse some services to gay, lesbian and transgender people.

"This administration has taken a very expansive view of religious liberty," she said in an interview. "It understands religious liberty to override antidiscrimination principles."

HHS makes clear that it won't allow gender discrimination that is banned by federal law. The question, according to Melling, is whether the administration includes gender identity and sexual orientation in the definition of gender.

She says there are many examples of health workers refusing care on religious grounds, including a nurse who didn't want to provide post-operative care to a woman who had an abortion, a pediatrician who declined to see a child because his parents were lesbians and a fertility doctor who didn't want to provide services to a lesbian couple.

Acting HHS Secretary Eric Hargan said Thursday that is the point.

"For too long too many of these health care practitioners have been bullied and discriminated against because of their religious beliefs and moral conviction," he said.

The government, he said, has "hounded religious hospitals and the men and women who staff them, forcing them to provide and refer for services that violate their consciences."

The new division won't have to wait to get to work. A pediatric nurse at the Winnebago County Health Department in Illinois filed a complaint with HHS on Tuesday because she objects to her employer requiring that she be trained to make referrals to providers of abortion services or to help woman get abortion drugs, according to the Rockford Register Star.

This isn't the first time in the Trump administration that HHS's Office of Civil Rights has moved to protect people with moral or religious objections to some kinds of health care. In October, the agency allowed employers to refuse to pay for birth control coverage.

"Health providers should have the ability to live their religious beliefs without fear of workplace discrimination," said Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., in a statement.

Lankford has long advocated for such protections and has sponsored a bill called the Conscience Protection Act to codify the rules.

HHS head Roger Semerino (Former Director, DeVos Center for Religion and Civil Society, Institute for Family, Community, and Opportunity)

The media spends a lot of time tracking Donald Trump’s every move and chasing down members of Congress, but much of governing happens in these bland halls. Under Trump, HHS may see more changes than any other agency, in part because the president’s predecessor left his biggest mark here. As Congress stalls on passing a new health-care bill, the Trump administration can still fight Obamacare with revised regulations, rejiggered budgets, and lackluster enforcement. 

July 22, 2017

Kentucky on The Hook For Anti Gay Kim Davis Legal Fees $222,695

Kim Davis is back at work several days after being released from jail. The embattled Kentucky county clerk says she still refuses to authorize marriage licenses, but will not stop her deputies from issuing them. VPC
LOUISVILLE — In a victory for same-sex couples denied marriage licenses by a Kentucky clerk two years ago, a federal judge Friday awarded $222,695 in fees to their attorneys.
The ACLU of Kentucky hailed the ruling, saying it should serve as a reminder to public officials in Kentucky of the cost of violating civil liberties.
“It is unfortunate that Kentucky taxpayers will likely bear the financial burden of the unlawful actions and litigation strategies of an elected official,” William Sharp, the ACLU’s legal director, said in a statement.
U.S. District Judge David Bunning ordered the state to pay the fees, rather than Kim Davis or Rowan County, Ky., where she is the clerk.
August 2016: Judge dismisses civil suits against Kim Davis
July 2016: Ky. AG: Clerk Kim Davis violated Open Records Act
He said Davis was protected because she was acting in her official capacity when she stopped issuing marriage licenses in 2015 on religious grounds after the Supreme Court held gay marriage is a fundamental right. He said the state rather than the county was liable because the state is primarily responsible for regulating marriage.   
In a 50-page ruling, Bunning said he was awarding the fees under a federal law that allows them to be granted to the prevailing party in civil rights cases. He overruled a magistrate judge who had denied the money because he said the plaintiffs hadn’t really prevailed.
Mat Staver, chairman, and founder of Liberty Counsel, which represented Davis, had argued the plaintiffs didn’t really win because eventually, the General Assembly passed a law providing the religious liberty accommodation that Davis sought — removing the names of clerks from marriage license forms. He said that made the lawsuit moot.
Bunning, however, found that the plaintiffs got what they wanted — an injunction requiring her office to begin issuing licenses again.
February 2016: Bill to protect Ky. clerk Kim Davis passed by committee
January 2016: Kim Davis to attend State of the Union address
“Plaintiffs won the war,” Bunning said.
In a statement, Staver said he was pleased that Davis wasn’t held personally liable but disappointed with Bunning’s finding that the plaintiffs prevailed.
He predicted that the state would appeal, but Woody Maglinger, a spokesman for Kentucky Gov. Matt Bevin, said the state’s outside counsel was still studying the ruling and that no decision had yet been made whether to try to reverse it. 
Davis became a national lightning rod when just hours after the Supreme Court’s gay marriage ruling on June 26, 2015, she decided her office would no longer issue marriage licenses to any couples, same-sex or otherwise.
Four days later, when April Miller and Karen Roberts, who had been in a committed same-sex relationship for 11 years, went to Davis’ office to get a license, their request was denied. Two opposite-sex couples — Kevin Holloway and Jody Fernandez and Shantel Burke and Stephen Napier — as well as another same-sex couple — Barry Spartman and Aaron Skaggs — also were turned down.
They and others sued, while Davis filed a claim alleging the state of Kentucky and then-Gov. Steve Beshear deprived her rights by requiring her to issue licenses with her name on them. 
December 2015: Ky. gov removes clerks' names from marriage licenses
November 2015: Kentucky’s governor-elect to remove clerk name from marriage form
In August 2015, Bunning issued a preliminary injunction ordering Davis to comply with the law. When a federal appeals court and the Supreme Court declined to stay it, and she continued to refuse to comply, he ordered her jailed for contempt of court.
Five days later, the plaintiffs reported that the office had granted them licenses and Bunning ordered Davis released.
In December of that year, after his election, Bevin issued an executive order removing the names of clerks from marriage licenses to “ensure that the sincerely held religious beliefs of all Kentuckians are honored.” The Legislature later passed SB 216, which made that change permanent.
Bunning's order included fees to four Louisville attorneys — Sharp, Daniel Canon, Laura Landenwich and L. Joe Dunman. The court also ordered the state to pay $2,008 in costs.
October 2015: Poll: Ky. voters split on removing clerk Kim Davis
October 2015: In addition to Davis, Pope met with gay couple in Washington
In his statement, Sharp urged voters to remember what Davis cost them when they go to the ballot box. She was out of her office Friday and didn't reply to an email, but Staver said litigation would have been unnecessary if Beshear had accommodated Davis’ religious beliefs as Bevin later did.
Beshear maintained that the state's 120 county clerks were required to obey the law and the Supreme Court’s ruling.
"Neither your oath nor the Supreme Court dictates what you must believe,” he wrote to them. “But as elected officials, they do prescribe how we must act.”
 USA TODAY NETWORKAndrew Wolfson, The (Louisville) Courier-Journal 

October 6, 2016

Contractor/NSA Arrested Stealing Secrets for Possible Foreign Hacking

The F.B.I. secretly arrested a National Security Agency contractor in recent weeks and is investigating whether he stole and disclosed highly classified computer code developed to hack into the networks of foreign governments, according to several senior law enforcement and intelligence officials.

The theft raises the embarrassing prospect that for the second time in three years, an insider has managed to steal highly damaging secret information from the N.S.A. In 2013, Edward J. Snowden, who was also a contractor for the agency, took a vast trove of documents that were later passed to journalists, exposing N.S.A. surveillance programs in the United States and abroad.

The contractor was identified as Harold T. Martin III, 51, of Glen Burnie, Md., according to a criminal complaint filed in late August. He was charged with theft of government property, and unauthorized removal or retention of classified documents. During an F.B.I. raid of his house, agents seized documents and digital information stored on electronic devices. A large percentage of the materials found in his house and car contained highly classified information.

At the time, F.B.I. agents interviewed Mr. Martin, and he initially denied having taken the documents and digital files. The agency later said he had stated that he knew he was not authorized to have the materials. According to the complaint, he told the agency that “he knew what he had done was wrong and that he should not have done it because he knew it was unauthorized.” 
In a brief statement issued on Wednesday, lawyers for Mr. Martin said: “We have not seen any evidence. But what we know is that Hal Martin loves his family and his country. There is no evidence that he intended to betray his country.”

The information believed stolen by Mr. Martin — who like Mr. Snowden worked for the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton, which is responsible for building and operating many of the agency’s most sensitive cyberoperations — appears to be different in nature from Mr. Snowden’s theft.

Mr. Martin is suspected of taking the highly classified computer code developed by the agency to break into computer systems of adversaries like Russia, China, Iran and North Korea. Two officials said that some of the information the contractor is suspected of taking was dated.

F.B.I. Criminal Complaint Against Harold Martin, N.S.A. Contractor
The F.B.I. secretly arrested Harold T. Martin III, an N.S.A. contractor, and is investigating whether he stole and disclosed highly classified information.

Officials said Mr. Martin did not fit any of the usual profiles of an “insider threat,” and it is unclear whether he had political motives, as Mr. Snowden did when he exposed programs that he said violated the privacy of American citizens.

An administration official said the case had been handled secretively not in order “to keep this guy from becoming another N.S.A. martyr,” but because it was a continuing law enforcement case and the hope was that Mr. Martin would cooperate. The official said investigators suspected that Mr. Martin might have taken the material before Mr. Snowden’s actions became public.

The official said that at the moment it did not look like an espionage case, but added the caveat that it is a continuing investigation. At the same time, the official said that investigators think Mr. Martin is not politically motivated — “not like a Snowden or someone who believes that what we were doing was illegal and wanted to publicize that.”

Motivation is one of many unanswered questions about the case. It is not clear when and how the authorities first learned the contractor’s identity, when they believe he began taking information, or whether he passed it to people outside the government. It is also not known whether he is believed to be responsible for a leak of classified N.S.A. code attributed to a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers, or whether he had any role in a series of leaks of N.S.A. intercepts involving Japan, Germany and other countries that WikiLeaks has published since last year.

“We’re struggling to figure him out,” the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because no indictment has been publicly released.

Mr. Martin was charged in United States District Court in Baltimore. The government is allowed to charge people and bring them before a court in secret. That happens most often when defendants are cooperating or negotiating plea deals, or out of fear for their safety. But the secrecy could also indicate that the Justice Department requested it while analyzing the evidence, and that defense lawyers agreed.

For the N.S.A., which spent two years and hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars repairing the damage done by Mr. Snowden, a second insider leaking the agency’s information would be a devastating blow. The agency’s director, Adm. Michael Rogers, who previously ran the Navy’s Fleet Cyber Command, was brought in to restore the agency’s credibility, open it to more scrutiny and fix the problems that allowed Mr. Snowden to sweep up hundreds of thousands of documents.
Adm. Michael Rogers, the N.S.A. director, in March. He was brought in to restore the agency’s credibility and open it to more scrutiny. Credit Jim Wilson/The New York Times
It is also a potential setback for the Obama administration, which has sustained a series of huge disclosures of classified information. Along with Mr. Snowden’s revelations, the antisecrecy group WikiLeaks in 2010 disclosed hundreds of thousands of State and Defense Department documents.

In response to those leaks, the administration has said it will crack down on the disclosures of classified information and that it has pursued more leak cases than all previous administrations combined.

The administration has prosecuted eight people for disclosing classified information to the news media, compared with three under all previous administrations. But the crackdown has sometimes backfired. Mr. Snowden, for example, has said he was inspired by the example of two previous leakers, Thomas Drake and Chelsea Manning, who claimed to have made disclosures to reveal government wrongdoing. The latest leak suggests again that the unprecedented string of prosecutions has not deterred all leaks.

Two former agency officials said that even as the Media Leaks Task Force, as the Snowden cleanup operation was called, was underway, there were rumors that a second insider was harvesting the agency’s most secret data. But many inside the agency thought the leaks were leftovers from the Snowden episode. Some C.I.A. officials, meanwhile, quietly speculated that the N.S.A. had a “mole,” which many inside the N.S.A. doubted.

It is also potentially devastating for Booz Allen, which has built much of its business on providing highly technical services to the N.S.A. and other intelligence agencies.

A spokesman for Booz Allen declined to comment on Wednesday.

As investigators look into Mr. Martin’s case, it is almost certain that they will focus on whether the contractor was behind a leak in August that exposed a collection of electronic tools used by the N.S.A. to break into networks around the world. That material, released by a group calling itself the Shadow Brokers, was thought by outside experts to have been obtained by hacking rather than from an insider. Now, in light of the arrest, that assumption may have to be revised. The code released by the Shadow Brokers was dated from 2013, meaning that it almost certainly has been overtaken by more recent code.

At the time of the Shadow Brokers release, many experts speculated that an N.S.A. operator had accidentally left some of the code on a computer server in a foreign nation — such servers are often used to hide the connection to the agency and to facilitate network break-ins — and that the code had been obtained by Russia. 

Mr. Snowden, in exile in Russia, wrote on Twitter that “circumstantial evidence and conventional wisdom indicates Russian responsibility” for publishing the code. He interpreted it as a warning shot to the American government in case it was thinking of imposing sanctions against Russia in the cybertheft of documents from the Democratic National Committee.

At the time, the agency would not even return phone calls inquiring about the leak of the code, and froze out former employees with deep contacts in the agency. But in recent days officials said it was not clear that Russia was involved.

Bruce Schneier, an author on information security and fellow at Harvard’s Kennedy School, has tracked post-Snowden leaks from the N.S.A. and speculated about their possible source. But he had not heard that the government had identified any leaker.

Mr. Schneier noted that the agency has aggressively recruited in recent years at gatherings of young, tech-savvy programmers, including those who specialize in hacking. But officials have worried that the innovative free spirits they need to penetrate foreign computer systems may also include at least a few who are motivated by Mr. Snowden’s example. The current suspect, however, does not appear to fit that profile.

“I wouldn’t call it an epidemic,” Mr. Schneier said. “But there’s a handful of leaks that clearly did not come from Snowden.” He said events in recent years might both encourage and intimidate would-be leakers.

“On one side, there’s the inspiration of Snowden,” he said. “On the other, there’s the counterbalancing force of an agency coming down on you like a ton of bricks. Snowden is in exile. Manning is in prison.”
The tension between secrecy and public scrutiny at the nation’s biggest intelligence agency goes back decades. But since Mr. Snowden’s disclosures, and the rise of a sister military organization, United States Cyber Command, also led by Admiral Rogers, there has been a determined effort to speak more openly about the agency, its mission and the future of cyberconflict.

While the agency previously saw a few memos made public — in 2003, a linguist with its British equivalent was arrested after leaking to the news media a single N.S.A. memo calling for a “surge” of intercepts at the United Nations — it had not experienced a mass leak until Mr. Snowden’s disclosures. He used an inexpensive bit of software to sweep up data in the agency’s Hawaii networks, undetected. At the time, officials said that would not have been possible at Fort Meade, where data is far more protected. That claim will now come under far more scrutiny.

David E. Sanger contributed reporting from Cambridge, Mass., and Scott Shane and Mark Mazzetti from Washington.

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