Today in Liberty: NSA collecting photos for facial recognition, Senate GOP targets Obama EPA’s anti-coal regulations

“We all know from our own experience that a hallmark of bureaucracy is the waiting list. Waiting lists at the post office and the DMV are merely annoying and inconvenient. Waiting lists at our doctor’s offices and hospitals can be fatal.” — Congressman Tom McClintock

— All your photos belong to the NSA: The National Security Agency isn’t just collecting metadata from phone calls, it’s also collecting images from communications to use for facial recognition. “The spy agency’s reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications, the N.S.A. documents reveal. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world, the documents show. The agency’s ambitions for this highly sensitive ability and the scale of its effort have not previously been disclosed,” The New York Times reports. “The agency intercepts ‘millions of images per day’ — including about 55,000 ‘facial recognition quality images” — which translate into “tremendous untapped potential,’ according to 2011 documents obtained from the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. While once focused on written and oral communications, the N.S.A. now considers facial images, fingerprints and other identifiers just as important to its mission of tracking suspected terrorists and other intelligence targets, the documents show.” Though an agency spokesperson did say that the NSA doesn’t have access to photos on state drivers license databases, she declined to tell the Times whether it collects photos from Americans’ Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites.

— McConnell readies resolution to block EPA regs: Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) will introduce a resolution of disapproval this week to block the anti-coal, anti-consumer regulations that President Barack Obama and the EPA will roll out today. “I have long fought against Obama’s War on Kentucky coal, and I will continue to fight back by introducing legislation next week on behalf of our coal miners and Kentucky families to stop Obama from imposing this national energy tax — a failed tax which has already been rejected by Congress,” McConnell said in a statement. “The President’s plan would destroy jobs and raise costs for families across America, and Congress must listen to these families — even though the President won’t.” The resolution of disapproval would need a simple majority to pass, though we’re not sure if it’s subject to a filibuster. It would, however, require President Obama’s signature.

— Speaking of regulations: Sam Batkins of American Action Forum has the weekly roundup of federal regulatory activity, and it’s not pretty. “After a slow week, regulators added more than $12.9 billion in total costs ($40 per person in the U.S.) and 355,000 paperwork burden hours. Annualized costs were $658 million, compared to $2 billion in benefits,” Batkins writes. “A Department of Energy efficiency standard rule for electric motors led the week.” Federal bureaucrats have added $40.7 billion in rules this year and proposed another $26.2 billion.

— Cronyist civil war: Two powerful lobbies key to the passage of Obamacare are going to war over the rising cost of specialty drugs. “Insurers say the high prices are raising healthcare costs for insurance companies and everyone else, threatening the sustainability of the U.S. healthcare system. Drug makers say the high prices are necessary to recoup research and development costs. They also say insurers should cover more of the cost of pharmaceuticals,” The Hill explains. “The fight has been waged as a full-fledged feud in Washington between America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the lobbying group for insurers; and the Pharmaceutical Researchers and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA).” Who knows how this will end, but consumers and, possibly, taxpayers may want to hold onto their wallets.

— America Rising to release anti-Clinton book: America Rising, a Republican-leaning opposition research group, will release an e-book next week to that hits Hillary Clinton’s record at the State Department. “The e-book will have six chapters and an epilogue, intended as a prebuttal to Clinton’s upcoming book tour and potential 2016 presidential campaign. The first chapter mocks how many countries she’s talked about visiting (112), and there are sections on Mideast policy, the Russian ‘reset’ and the Arab Spring. But it is Benghazi that has galvanized her conservative critics the most,” Politico notes. “America Rising officials didn’t provide the full plan to try to negatively define Clinton’s book and tour, in part because her tour dates haven’t yet been released, the group’s officials said. But they said they plan to conduct online advertising around the e-book in cities where she’ll be appearing.” The e-book, Failed Choices: A Critique of the Clinton State Department, will be released next week. America Rising is offering a first look with a $2.16 donation.

— Cruz wins Republican Leadership Conference straw poll: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) took 30.3 percent of the presidential straw poll at last weekend’s Republican Leadership Conference, barely edging out Dr. Ben Carson, who took 29.4 percent. Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) finished third with 10.4 percent. Full results are available at Conservative Intel. David Freddoso notes that the straw poll is telling. “It’s also interesting to see that even though all of the candidates on this list could be considered social conservatives to some degree, this very conservative crowd was not too interested in the two candidates who would campaign with a heavy emphasis on social issues. Rick Santorum (who spoke at the convention) and Mike Huckabee (who did not) combined for a disappointing 7.5 percent,” Freddoso notes. “Meanwhile, the more ‘establishment’ candidates — Jeb Bush, Marco Rubio, Rick Perry, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie — also did quite poorly, splitting the remaining 20 percent of the vote with two write-in candidates.” The Republican Leadership Conference crowd is less libertarian than CPAC, but it has lined up with Republican establishment candidates in past straw polls.

— Washington’s broken priorities: The wants of defense contractors mean more to some in Congress than the needs of brave soldiers. “[I]t is a striking look at Congressional priorities, despite all the grandstanding, that one of the only areas of reduction in the recent defense authorization — $1.1 billion below the fiscal year 2014 enacted level and $360 million below the President’s request — is in the area of health programs,” writes Rebekah Johansen of the Coalition to Reduce Spending. “It’s a stark look into the mindset of politicians that they keep throwing billions and even trillions of dollars to failed weapons programs that, in some cases, the military doesn’t even want, but somehow can find reductions — but not, apparently, reforms — in that one particular area.”

— Wisconsin’s has its own version of the IRS scandal: The Wisconsin Club for Growth, the state chapter of the prominent national organization, has filed suit against the state elections board for investigating conservative groups. “The [Wisconsin Government Accountability Board] is empowered under state law with enforcing elections, ethics and lobbying laws. Former judges who comprise the nonpartisan board last year voted in secret to authorize the John Doe probe and hired a special investigator. The investigation encompassed five counties,” the Associated Press explains. “The lawsuit filed Friday alleges the investigation was an overreach of the board’s authority, saying it can only pursue civil violations or campaign laws and refer criminal cases to prosecutors. But the lawsuit alleges GAB illegally continued to pursue and pay for the investigation even after referring it to prosecutors, creating a ‘Frankenstein monster.’” There has already been some movement in federal courts on this. It revolves around the 2012 recall of Gov. Scott Walker (R-WI). A federal judge has already confirmed that the GAB’s investigation involved “all or nearly all right-of-center groups and individuals in Wisconsin who have engaged in issue advocacy from 2010 to the present.”

— So…this happened: Mallory Ortberg of The Toast has taken Ayn Rand and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer Stone and created Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Objectivism, and it’s probably one of our favorite things ever.

— Birthdays: Happy birthday to Rare contributing editor Jack Hunter and Reason senior editor and author Brian Doherty. Jack’s celebrated his birthday on Sunday. Doherty’s birthday is today. Give these guys a follow on Twitter at @jackhunter74 and @brianmdoherty and wish them a happy birthday.

— Week on the Hill: The House of Representatives is out of session this week for a designated “Constituent Work Week.” The lower chamber will resume legislative activity on Monday, June 9. The Senate is back in session today after a week recess and will convene at 2 pm.

Other items we’re reading this morning:

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