Catherine Thompson

Catherine Thompson is a news writer for Talking Points Memo. Before joining TPM, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett and interned at The L Magazine. At New York University she served as the deputy managing editor of NYU's student newspaper, The Washington Square News. She can be reached at catherine@talkingpointsmemo.com.

Articles by Catherine

The blind Chinese activist recently let go by the American university that offered him a fellowship had been presented with electronics loaded with spying software, Reuters reported Friday.

New York University technicians found software designed to spy on Cheng Guangcheng loaded on an iPad and smartphone gifted to the dissident after he arrived in Manhattan, his mentor, NYU Professor Jerome Cohen, told Reuters.

The devices, given to Guangcheng by the wife of fellow Chinese activist-in-exile Bob Fu, were screened by technicians within days of their receipt. An unnamed source told Reuters the technicians found secret GPS software on one of the devices, which gave it tracking device capabilities, as well as software that backed up the device's contents to a remote server. Although Cohen and the unnamed source believe the software was installed deliberately, Reuters could not establish whether there may be a more innocent explanation for its presence. 

Fu told Reuters the allegations were "ridiculous" and "a 007 thing."

The spyware incident surfaced soon after Guangcheng accused NYU of ending his fellowship over pressure from China, where it is opening a campus in Shanghai this fall. NYU has denied that allegation and claims Guangcheng's fellowship was only slated to last a year.

Former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (D), famous for his Iowa "scream speech" in the 2004 presidential primary race, said Thursday that he'd consider running for the chief executive's office again.

"I am not driven by my own ambition," Dean told CNN in an interview at the left-leaning activist Netroots Nation conference. "What I am driven by is pushing the country in a direction that it desperately needs to be pushed; pushing other politicians who aren't quite as frank as I am who need to be more candid with the American people about what needs to happen. I am not trying to hedge, it's a hard job running. It's really tough. I am doing a lot of things I really enjoy. But you should never say never in this business."

Dean said he was sure that if former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were to run in 2016 she would face challengers like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) or Maryland Gov. Michael O'Malley (D), but also acknowledged that the Democratic Party may raise an eyebrow if he were to announce his own bid.

"If you had to put a gun to my head and make me decide right now, I wouldn't," Dean said. "But who knows?"

Google visited the office of Rep. John Dingell (D-MI), the longest-serving congressman in history, on Thursday to show the 86-year-old politician how to use Google Glass.

A Google representative showed Dingell how to display directions to a Chinese restaurant on the company's wearable computer. Dingell was impressed when the map showed up on his device: "Oh, this is quite a machine!" the congressman said.

Google has a sales and operations office located in Dingell's district in Ann Arbor, Mich. 

Federal investigators are probing a private company that conducted a security background check on the source of the National Security Agency leaks, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday.

USIS, a contractor that performs over two-thirds of the security background checks for the Office of Personnel Management, conducted Edward Snowden's security background investigation in 2011. Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-MO) said at the start of a special Senate hearing that USIS is being probed for a "systematic failure to conduct investigations," according to the Journal. 

The probe has not been connected to the background check conducted on Edward Snowden.

Both federal officials and USIS declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.

In the latest local controversy to grip the Maine State House, Gov. Paul LePage (R) reportedly made crude sexual remarks about a Democratic state senator captured by Portland's WMTW news crew on Thursday.

LePage reportedly said that Democratic state Sen. Troy Jackson "claims to be for the people, but he's the first one to give it to the people without providing Vaseline," according to WMTW reporter Paul Merrill. The governor added that Jackson "has no brains, and he has a black heart."

LePage announced at a rally Thursday morning that he would veto the state's proposed budget compromise. Jackson delivered his party's response to the veto threat, claiming that LePage had been unwilling to work with Demcratic leadership. 

When the WMTW reporter asked the governor if he was aware that the public would view his remarks as offensive, he replied "It ought to, because I've been taking it for two years," according to Merrill.

Maine Democrats called LePage's controversial comments "a sad and embarrassing chapter in Maine's history."

"Paul LePage is a classless bully who is unfit to hold public office of any kind," Maine Democratic Party Chairman Ben Grant said in a statement. "This is the chief executive officer of our State, the highest elected official, the public face of Maine, and he’s making comments that any 14 year-old would know are out of line." 

LePage does not appear on camera in the video accompanying WMTW's report.

A Knox County, Tenn. couple face charges in the fatal shooting of their 6-month-old child, the Knoxville News Sentinel reported Thursday.

Ken Mason, 40, and Angela Major, 26, have been charged with reckless homicide, according to court records. A friend who was on the phone with Major at the time of the incident heard the couple struggling over a gun, which then went off and hit their daughter Kelsey in the head, according to an arrest warrant.

The court records showed that Major had a prior criminal history in the county, while a Knox County Sheriff's Office spokesperson said the father, Mason, was originally arrested on an outstanding warrant for "failing to obey court orders." Investigators did not tell the News Sentinel what caused the altercation, what type of pistol was recovered at the scene, nor how many shots were fired.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) on Thursday called for the approval of a new immigration reform amendment he called "a dramatic improvement on border security, unlike anything proposed in the past."

Rubio stressed the importance of the new measure hammered out by Sen. Bob Corker (R-TN) and Sen. John Hoeven (R-ND), billed as a more palatable alternative to Sen. John Cornyn's (R-TX) border security proposal. He argued that if adequate border security and programs like E-verify don't make it into the language of the bill, then undocumented immigrants may be given permanent residency while the borders remain insecure and those security programs languish.

"If you don't say that all those things have to happen before permanent legal residency happens," he said in an appearance on Fox News, "if you don't say that, then these things may not happen."

Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL) is prepared to vote yes on comprehensive immigration reform if a deal to strengthen border security pulls through, the Chicago Sun-Times reported Thursday.

“The decision is should the border security amendment pass, I will be able to support the final legislation because then I will be able to assure the people of Illinois that the border is well covered with 21,000 border agents added, one every thousand feet, I think we got the border covered,” Kirk told the Sun-Times.

The Illinois senator voted against filing cloture on the bill because Senate Democrats tabled Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX)'s border security amendment. "I urge Democratic leaders to rethink a strategy that castigates those who seek true immigration reform and also consider border security a top national security priority," Kirk wrote on his blog.

Attorney General Eric Holder attempted to set the record straight Wednesday on what some have called a "contradiction" in his testimony before Congress in May regarding the Department of Justice's issue of a search warrant for Fox News reporter James Rosen's records.

In a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-VA), Holder maintained that his department had never prosecuted a journalist for publishing top secret information. He suggests the committee misinterpreted his statements "to mean that the Department also has not taken certain investigative steps—such as seeking a search warrant for a reporter's emails from an internet service provider—during an investigation into the unauthorized disclosure of classified information."

One of Goodlatte's questions took issue with Holder's statement in testimony that he had never "been involved with" or "heard of" "potential prosecution of the press for the disclosure of material."

Here's Holder's response:

As I have explained, the decision to seek a search warrant in this matter was an investigative step that is separate from charging decisions. When I testified before the Committee, I stated that I was unaware of the Department ever charging a reporter with a crime simply for publishing material, and that remains my understanding today. In the matter of the unauthorized disclosure of information that appeared in a June 2009 article, while I was aware of and approved the government’s investigative step to seek a search warrant, prosecutors never sought my approval to charge a reporter. I do not agree that characterizations establishing probable cause for a search warrant for materials from a member of the news media during an ongoing investigation constitute an intent to prosecute that member of the news media. I do believe that a thorough investigation of the disclosure of classified information that threatened national security was necessary and appropriate.

Holder declared in the letter that he would not testify further in the matter or provide additional details to Congress. Read the full letter below. 

Holder Responds To House Judiciary Committee Written Questions

Exodus International, a Christian group that claimed to be able to "cure" homosexuality though therapy, announced Wednesday that it is shutting down after more than three decades of work following an apology it issued to the LGBT community.

“We’re not negating the ways God used Exodus to positively affect thousands of people, but a new generation of Christians is looking for change – and they want to be heard,” board member Tony Moore said in a press release posted to the Exodus International website. 

Just a day earlier, Exodus International's president, Alan Chambers, wrote a lengthy apology published on the group's website that lamented his organization's and the church's approach to the LGBT community without renouncing his "biblical beliefs" regarding sexuality.

"Please know that I am deeply sorry," Chambers said in the apology. "I am sorry for the pain and hurt many of you have experienced. I am sorry that some of you spent years working through the shame and guilt you felt when your attractions didn’t change. I am sorry we promoted sexual orientation change efforts and reparative theories about sexual orientation that stigmatized parents."

Read the full apology here.