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

A National Security Agency official will be brought to answer publicly before Congress on Wednesday for the first time since details of the agency's phone and Internet surveillance programs leaked last week. 

CBS News reported that Army Gen. Keith Alexander, National Security Agency director and head of U.S. Cyber Command, will testify in front of the Senate Appropriations Committee's scheduled session. 

Alexander had already met with the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), who chairs the committee, said the committee had asked Alexander to declassify some information pertaining to the NSA surveillance programs so that Congress could better explain their purpose to the public.

"I think they're really helpful," Feinstein said, as quoted by CBS News. "And that's the problem, it's all classified... If we can get that declassified then we can speak much more clearly."

The first lawsuit challenging the National Security Agency's collection of Verizon customers' phone records was filed on Friday, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.

Activist Larry Klayman, the former federal prosecutor who founded Judicial Watch, together with Philadelphia-based couple Charles and Mary Ann Strange filed the suit in federal district court in D.C. The suit, reproduced by the Inquirer, alleges that the agency's phone records collection violates Verizon customer's "reasonable expectation of privacy, free speech and association, right to be free of unreasonable searches and seizures, and due process rights."

The Stranges are the parents of Navy SEAL Michael Strange, who was killed in 2011 when his helicopter was shot down in Afghanistan. In the lawsuit, the couple claims their phone records were accessed "since these Plaintiffs have been vocal about their criticism of President Obama as commander-in-chief, his administration, and the U.S. military regarding the circumstances surrounding the shoot down of their son's helicopter in Afghanistan."

As of Monday, the lawsuit has class-action status and claims to represent over 100 million people. The parties seek up to $3 billion in damages, as well as the termination of the surveillance program and public disclosure of its activity.

Edward Snowden's girlfriend was caught by surprise when the ex-CIA contractor leaked classified information about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs, according to friends that spoke with the Washington Post.

“I just talked to her,” one unnamed friend in Hawaii told the Post. “I know she didn’t have any idea.”

Friends confirmed to the Post that the blog "Lsjourney" belonged to dancer Lindsey Mills, 28, and that the boyfriend she referred to on that blog was indeed Edward Snowden. The blog no longer appears to be online.

The Post was unable to reach Mills or her family members for comment.

Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) told Miami's WFOR Monday that she thought Edward Snowden should be prosecuted for leaking information about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.

"He should be extradited, arrested, and prosecuted,” she said. “That’s exactly what should happen to him because he violated the law. He violated America’s trust. He jeopardized millions of Americans.”

Wasserman Schultz told reporters that she herself voted against government surveillance programs, on the grounds that they didn't sufficiently protect privacy rights.

A coalition of over 80 organizations and Internet companies on Tuesday sent a letter to Congress calling for a public investigation into recently revealed National Security Agency surveillance programs. The full letter and list of signatories include the American Civil Liberties Union, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla and reddit.

The coalition launched a website to accompany the letter, stopwatching.us, that advocates for congressional disclosure of spying activities. Laura Poitras, the filmmaker who has a byline on the Washington Post story that broke the news of the NSA's PRISM Internet surveillance program, is highlighted on the website as a private signatory.

The full list of coalition members is below:



Advocacy for Principled Action in Government

The AIDS Policy Project, Philadelphia

American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression

American Civil Liberties Union

American Civil Liberties Union of California

American Library Association


Association of Research Libraries

Bill of Rights Defense Committee

Boing Boing


Calyx Institute


Center for Democracy and Technology

Center for Digital Democracy

Center for Financial Privacy and Human Rights

Center for Media and Democracy

Center for Media Justice

Competitive Enterprise Institute

Consumer Action

Consumer Watchdog


CREDO Mobile

Cyber Privacy Project

Daily Kos

Defending Dissent Foundation

Demand Progress

Detroit Digital Justice Coalition

Digital Fourth

Downsize DC


Electronic Frontier Foundation

Entertainment Consumers Association

Fight for the Future


Foundation for Innovation and Internet Freedom

Free Press Action Fund

Free Software Foundation

Freedom of the Press Foundation


Friends of Privacy USA

Get FISA Right

Government Accountability Project

Greenpeace USA

Institute of Popular Education of Southern California

Internet Archive

isen.com, LLC

Knowledge Ecology International

Law Life Culture

Liberty Coalition

May First/People Link

Media Alliance

Media Mobilizing Project, Philadelphia



National Coalition Against Censorship

New Sanctuary Coalition of NYC

Open Technology Institute


Participatory Politics Foundation

Patient Privacy Rights 

People for the American Way

Personal Democracy Media


Privacy and Access Council of Canada

Public Interest Advocacy Centre (Ottawa, Canada)

Public Knowledge

Privacy Activism

Privacy Camp

Privacy Rights Clearinghouse

Privacy Times



Rights Working Group

Rocky Mountain Civil Liberties Association


Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy & Public Interest Clinic

Sunlight Foundation

Taxpayers Protection Alliance


TURN-The Utility Reform Network

Urbana-Champaign Independent Media Center

William C. Velasquez Institute

World Wide Web Foundation

President Obama on Tuesday took aim at Republican critics of immigration reform who claim border security provisions in the so-called Gang of Eight immigration bill are not strong enough to allow it to pass.

"This bill would be the biggest commitment to border security in our nation's history," he said in a statement at the White House.

"No one is taking border security lightly," he added, touting his administration's record deportations of undocumented immigrants.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who is up for re-election in 2014, said earlier Tuesday that the bill, which includes a path to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants, needs "major changes" before it can become law.

"I’ll vote to debate it and for the opportunity to amend it, but in the days ahead there will need to be major changes to this bill if it’s going to become law," he said on the Senate floor. "These include, but are not limited to, the areas of border security, government benefits, and taxes."

President Obama on Tuesday said that immigrants who came to the United States illegally "shouldn't be let off easily."

"Yes, they broke the rules," Obama said in a statement on immigration reform at the White House. "They didn't wait their turn. They shouldn't be let off easily, they shouldn't be allowed to game the system."

A spokesman for a community college in southeastern Maryland confirmed Monday that a student with ex-CIA contractor Edward Snowden's name and birthdate attended the school, Mother Jones reported.

Anne Arundel Community College Spokesman Daniel Baum said that an Edward Snowden attended the college in Arnold, Md. from 1999 to 2001 and again from 2004 to 2005. Baum told Mother Jones that the student did not enroll in any "cyber-related" courses at the college or receive any degree.

The Guardian reported in its profile on the source of the leak about National Security Agency surveillance programs that Snowden "attended a community college in Maryland, studying computing, but never completed the coursework." The article did not name the college.

Police arrested nearly 60 protesters, many of them clergy members, Monday at a rally in North Carolina's Republican-led General Assembly, the Charlotte Observer reported.

The rally in Raleigh was the latest in a string of "Moral Monday" demonstrations held since April to protest the state GOP's cuts to Medicaid and policies on voter ID and women's rights, among other issues.

Religious leaders led the rally, according to the Observer. One of the newspaper's own reporters was also detained while interviewing demonstrators.

“Many of us have previously attempted to reach out to Assembly leaders for dialogue, and we have been ignored,” seven local rabbis said in a written statement, as quoted by the Observer. “We therefore endorse the use of nonviolent civil disobedience to draw attention to the reckless and heartless policies currently passing into law in Raleigh. ... We recognize the need for solidarity at this time in North Carolina."

Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) told reporters on Monday that she had never been briefed on the National Security Agency's PRISM program, according to the Huffington Post.

Collins, who served as the top-ranking Republican on the Homeland Security Committee last year and is a member of the intelligence committee this session, said she hadn't been briefed on the sweeping internet data collection program before The Guardian reported on it last week.

Collins said she never had access to the "highly compartmentalized information," and dismissed President Obama's claim that members of Congress could have requested a briefing on the surveillance program. "How can you ask when you don't know the program exists?" Collins asked, as quoted by the Huffington Post.