June 2013 Current Events: U.S. News
Here are the key events in United States news for the month of June 2013.
U.S. Government under Heavy Scrutiny after NSA leaks (June 6): The Guardian receives information that reveals that the National Security Agency (NSA) is using PRISM to spy on the web activities, including email, of U.S. citizens. Through PRISM, a clandestine national security surveillance program, the NSA has direct access to Facebook, YouTube, Skype, Google, Apple, Yahoo and other websites. In its report, The Guardian does not state who they received the information from. (June 7): The Wall Street Journal reports that the NSA also monitors the credit card transactions and customer records of three major phone service providers. U.S. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper calls the recent newspaper reports on government surveillance "reprehensible." (June 8): The Guardian publishes a report on another NSA tool called Boundless Informant, used by the U.S. government to watch activity in every country in the world. Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg and Google's Larry Page both deny any knowledge of PRISM. President Obama confirms PRISM's existence and its use to spy on the online activity of U.S. citizens. The New York Times reports that some companies, such as Facebook and Google, negotiated with the U.S. government over spying on customers. The report contradicts previous denials by those companies. (June 9): Edward Snowden, a former CIA employee, comes forward and admits that he is the source of the recent NSA leaks. Snowden, fearing prosecution, defects to Hong Kong and is currently on the run, wanted for questioning.
Supreme Court Orders University to Re-examine Affirmative Action Policy (June 24): In Fisher v. University of Texas, the Supreme Court allows universities to continue considering race as a factor in admissions to achieve diversity, but it does tell them that they must prove that "available, workable race-neutral alternatives do not suffice" before considering race. The court rules 7–1 to send the case back to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit for further review to determine if the school passes the test of "strict scrutiny," the highest level of judicial review. The ruling is considered a compromise between the court's conservative and liberal factions.
Supreme Court Rules on Voting Rights Act (June 25): In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court strikes down Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act, which established a formula for Congress to use when determining if a state or voting jurisdiction requires prior approval before changing its voting laws. Currently under Section 5 of the act nine-mostly Southern-states with a history of discrimination must get clearance from Congress before changing voting rules to make sure racial minorities are not negatively affected. While the 5-4 decision does not invalidate Section 5, it makes it toothless. Chief Justice John Roberts says the formula Congress now uses, which was written in 1965, has become outdated. "While any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions," he says in the majority opinion. In a strongly worded dissent, Judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg says, "Hubris is a fit word for today's demolition of the V.R.A." (Voting Rights Act).
Supreme Court Strikes Down DOMA (June 26): The Supreme Court rules that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) is unconstitutional. In a 5 to 4 vote, the court rules that DOMA violates the rights of gays and lesbians. The court also rules that the law interferes with the states' rights to define marriage. It is the first case ever on the issue of gay marriage for the Supreme Court. Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. votes against striking it down as does Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas. However, conservative-leaning Justice Anthony M. Kennedy votes with his liberal colleagues to overturn DOMA.
Supreme Court Rules on California Same-Sex Marriage Case (June 26): The Supreme Court rules that same-sex marriage opponents in California did not have standing to appeal the lower court ruling that overturned the state's ban, known as Proposition 8. This ruling will most likely remove legal battles for same-sex couples wishing to marry in California. However, the ruling does not directly affect other states.