Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner sent another warning shot Tuesday to members of the intelligence community that they risk losing all congressional authority for the National Security Agency’s collection of bulk telephone records if his bill restricting the program is not passed.
Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, told Deputy Attorney General James Cole during a House Judiciary Committee hearing that Congress will not reauthorize Section 215 of the post-9/11 Patriot Act before it sunsets on June 1, 2015, if substantial reforms to government surveillance are not adopted by then. The NSA derives much of its surveillance power from that section of the law. He added that Congress would never have passed or twice reauthorized the Patriot Act, which he authored, had it known the full breadth of the NSA’s surveillance muscle.
“Unless Section 215 gets fixed, you, Mr. Cole, and the intelligence community will get absolutely nothing, because I am confident there are not the votes in this Congress to reauthorize it,” Sensenbrenner said. “And I can say that without qualification.”
Cole refused to offer a position on the bill when pressed by Sensenbrenner, noting that the Justice Department held no stance on NSA legislation pending in Congress.
Sensenbrenner has been championing his Freedom Act since he introduced it late last year. He has repeatedly condemned the administrations of both President Obama and George W. Bush for taking carte blanche liberty with their interpretation of the word “relevant” in the Patriot Act’s controversial Section 215, which has come under intense scrutiny in the wake of the Edward Snowden leaks.
Sensenbrenner’s Freedom Act would limit the bulk collection of telephone metadata under Section 215; create a special advocate to oversee the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court; and require the NSA to increase overall transparency and accountability. It currently has 130 cosponsors and possesses a mirror bill in the Senate backed by Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy.
Sensenbrenner also lambasted a competing bill offered by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, a California Democrat, as a “joke” that wouldn’t usher in true reform at the NSA, a common criticism lobbed at her proposal by privacy and civil-liberty advocates.
What We're Following See More »
As the Russia investigation heats up, "the role of Marc E. Kasowitz, the president’s longtime New York lawyer, will be significantly reduced. Mr. Trump liked Mr. Kasowitz’s blunt, aggressive style, but he was not a natural fit in the delicate, politically charged criminal investigation. The veteran Washington defense lawyer John Dowd will take the lead in representing Mr. Trump for the Russia inquiry."
President Trump's attorneys are "actively compiling a list of Mueller’s alleged potential conflicts of interest, which they say could serve as a way to stymie his work." They plan to argued that Mueller is going outside the scope of his investigation, in inquiring into Trump's finances. They're also playing small ball, highlighting "donations to Democrats by some of" Mueller's team, and "an allegation that Mueller and Trump National Golf Club in Northern Virginia had a dispute over membership fees when Mueller resigned as a member in 2011." Trump is said to be incensed that Mueller may see his tax returns, and has been asking about his power to pardon his family members.
In addition to ties between Russia and the Trump campaign, Robert Mueller's team is also "examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates, according to a person familiar with the probe. FBI investigators and others are looking at Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development in New York with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow, and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008, the person said. The investigation also has absorbed a money-laundering probe begun by federal prosecutors in New York into Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort."
Special Counsel Robert Mueller's team is "is examining a broad range of transactions involving Trump’s businesses as well as those of his associates", including "Russian purchases of apartments in Trump buildings, Trump’s involvement in a controversial SoHo development with Russian associates, the 2013 Miss Universe pageant in Moscow and Trump’s sale of a Florida mansion to a Russian oligarch in 2008."
"A Senate bill to gut Obamacare would increase the number of uninsured people by 32 million and double premiums on Obamacare's exchanges by 2026, according to an analysis from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office. The analysis is of a bill that passed Congress in 2015 that would repeal Obamacare's taxes and some of the mandates. Republicans intend to leave Obamacare in place for two years while a replacement is crafted and implemented."