Catherine Thompson

Catherine Thompson is a senior editor for Talking Points Memo in New York City. She came to the site in 2013 and reported on national affairs. Previously, she worked as a research assistant to investigative reporter Wayne Barrett. She can be reached at

Articles by Catherine

A federal judge who signed a court order compelling Verizon to turn call logs over to the National Security Agency made headlines two years ago when he invoked the language of the tea party to declare Obamacare unconstitutional.

Judge Roger Vinson's signature appeared on the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court order issued in April that was publicized by The Guardian on Wednesday. 

Vinson declared in a Florida federal court in 2011 that the individual mandate element of the Affordable Care Act violated the constitution, and thus the whole health care law must be struck down.

Legal scholars who disagreed with Vinson's ruling on ACA saw echoes of the Tea Party movement in the judge's language. One law professor told the New York Times that Vinson's opinion in the case gave the impression that it "was written in part as a Tea Party manifesto."

“It is difficult to imagine that a nation which began, at least in part, as the result of opposition to a British mandate giving the East India Company a monopoly and imposing a nominal tax on all tea sold in America would have set out to create a government with the power to force people to buy tea in the first place," Vinson wrote in his opinion, as quoted in the Times article.

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In a statement responding to a report published in the Guardian, the American Civil Liberties Union on Thursday condemned the surrender under the Patriot Act of Verizon customer call logs to the National Security Agency.

From the statement:

"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," said Jameel Jaffer, American Civil Liberties Union deputy legal director. "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."


The program was put in place under the Patriot Act’s Section 215, a controversial provision that authorizes the government to seek secret court orders for the production of "any tangible thing" relevant to a foreign-intelligence or terrorism investigation. Recipients of Section 215 orders, such as telecommunications companies, are prohibited from disclosing that they gave the government their customers’ records.


"Now that this unconstitutional surveillance effort has been revealed, the government should end it and disclose its full scope, and Congress should initiate a full investigation," said Michelle Richardson, legislative counsel with the ACLU Washington Legislative Office. "This disclosure also highlights the growing gap between the public’s and the government’s understandings of the many sweeping surveillance authorities enacted by Congress. Since 9/11, the government has increasingly classified and concealed not just facts, but the law itself. Such extreme secrecy is inconsistent with our democratic values of open government and accountability."

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Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Thursday that he is "glad" a major phone provider is turning over call logs from millions of Americans to the National Security Agency, in accordance to a classified order earlier this year.

In an appearance on "Fox and Friends," Graham said that he is a Verizon customer and does not take issue with the service turning over records to the federal government if that information is used to track known terrorists.

Graham pointed to radical Islam and homegrown terrorism as major concerns: "It's happening in our own backyard and I'm glad the NSA is trying to find out what terrorists are up to overseas and inside the country," he said.

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Fort Bliss officials released statistics on Tuesday that showed more than 40 reported sexual assault and harassment incidents have occurred at the base since it implemented a sexual assault prevention program in October, the El Paso Times reported.

Spokesman Maj. Joe Buccino told the newspaper that 33 sexual assault cases and 13 sexual harassment cases had been reported at Fort Bliss since Oct. 1, when the base started the Army-wide Sexual Harassment/Assault Response and Prevention (SHARP) training program. Buccino cautioned that it's unknown how many incidents go unreported.

The figures were released the same day the U.S. Senate held a heated hearing on the issue of sexual assault in the armed forces.

(Photo: Shutterstock / Ilya Andriyanov)

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Two Boston area residents filed a lawsuit against the New York Post on Wednesday, accusing the newspaper of defamation for falsely portraying them as suspects in connection with the Marathon bombings, the Boston Globe reported.  

Salaheddin Barhoum, 16, and Yassine Zaimi, 24, were pictured three days after the bombing on the front page of the New York Post under the headline "Bag Men."  The lawsuit filed in Suffolk Superior Court alleges that the Post's photographs and articles were libelous and "would lead a reasonable reader to believe that plaintiffs had bombs in their bags, that they were involved in causing the Boston Marathon bombing."

The FBI released the first images of suspects Dzhokhar and Tamerlan Tsarnaev on the same day the Post published Barhoum and Zaimi's photographs,

The two students are seeking unspecified monetary compensation, asserting in the complaint that they were subject to “scorn, hatred, ridicule, or contempt in the minds of a considerable and respectable segment of the community.”

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Former state Rep. Tom Emmer jumped into contention for outgoing Rep. Michele Bachmann's seat in the 2014 Minnesota congressional race as expected on Wednesday.

The 2010 Republican gubernatorial candidate told a crowd of supporters in Delano, Minn. that he has "never felt more compelled in my life to serve,” according to the Star Tribune.

Last week, Bachmann announced in a video that she would not seek a fifth term in the House.

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Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) launched an email campaign on Wednesday to lobby New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) to appoint a pro-gun control replacement for the late Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ), according to Capital New York.

Giffords' pro-gun control PAC, Americans for Responsible Solutions, blasted out an email to supporters on Wednesday that included a link to a petition calling on Christie to honor Lautenberg's pro-gun control legacy by appointing an interim senator who supports expanding background checks on gun purchases. 

"Sen. Lautenberg cannot be replaced. However, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie must now select a successor," Giffords and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly, wrote in the email republished on Capital New York. "And he should pick one who supports expanding background checks to keep guns out of the hands of criminals and the deranged."

Christie announced on Tuesday that he'll fill Lautenberg's seat with a special general election on Oct. 16. Lautenberg, 89, passed away on Monday from complications caused by pneumonia.

Giffords has been a vocal advocate for expanding gun control legislation since she resigned from Congress after suffering a gunshot wound to the head in a 2011 shooting in Tucson, Ariz.

This post has been updated.

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U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder said in an interview with "NBC Nightly News" on Wednesday that he has "no intention" of heeding calls for his resignation.

The interview with NBC's Pete Williams marked the first time Holder has spoken one-on-one with the press since he came under scrutiny for seizing phone records and emails at the AP and Fox News. Holder said labeling Fox News reporter James Rosen a "co-conspirator" in a leak investigation was necessary to obtain a search warrant for his records, but the attorney general admitted that he was not "comfortable" making that designation.

Holder did not rule out a future transition to a new attorney general in the interview, but asserted that he will not be stepping down anytime soon.

"There are things I want to do, things I want to get done that I have discussed with the president," Holder told Williams. "Once I have finished that, I will sit down with him and we’ll determine when it is time to make a transition to a new attorney general.”

Williams asked Holder to clarify: “But to be clear, you’re not stepping down now?”

“No, I have no intention of doing so now,” Holder replied.

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Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) on Wednesday backed President Barack Obama's nominee to succeed Susan Rice as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

"I support President Obama's nomination of Samantha Power to become the next U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations," McCain said in a statement, according to NBC News. "I believe she is well-qualified for this important position and hope the Senate will move forward on her nomination as soon as possible."

Power worked on Obama's 2008 presidential campaign and was the senior director for multilateral affairs and human rights at the National Security Council. She left the administration in February, believed at the time to be the front-runner to replace Rice at the United Nations if and when she left her post.

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President Barack Obama on Wednesday formally announced Susan Rice's appointment as National Security Advisor to succeed Tom Donilon, who is stepping down.

"I'm absolutely thrilled that she'll be back at my side leading my national security team in my second term," Obama said of Rice. 

In the press conference at the White House Rose Garden, he described the ambassador as "fearless" and a "consummate public servant."

Rice thanked the president, saying "I am deeply grateful for your enduring confidence in me."

Obama also announced his intention to nominate Samantha Power, who he called "a relentless advocate for American interests and values," to replace Rice as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations.

"I strongly urge the U.S. Senate to confirm her without delay," he said.

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