The primary sponsor of the Patriot Act will introduce a bill next week aimed at reining in the National Security Administration’s domestic-surveillance programs, backed by about 60 cosponsors, including at least a half dozen who voted against a similar, narrowly defeated measure brought to the House floor this summer.
A date has not been finalized, but the Freedom Act, written by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., could drop as early as Tuesday. It follows an amendment introduced by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., that failed by a razor-thin 205-217 margin in July.
“Six members who voted no and two who didn’t vote on the Amash amendment are original cosponsors of the USA Freedom Act,” Sensenbrenner spokesman Ben Miller told National Journal. “Had they voted for the amendment, it would have passed 213 to 211.”
Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., Mike Quigley, D-Ill., and Lee Terry, R-Neb., are among those lawmakers who voted no on the Amash amendment and are now cosponsoring Sensenbrenner’s legislation.
“Rather than defunding, Congressman Terry has always believed that changes to the Patriot Act are the appropriate way to rein in the NSA,” said spokesman Larry Farnsworth of Terry’s switch.
Sensenbrenner, who authored the Patriot Act, has become a vocal opponent of the NSA’s sweeping surveillance apparatus since Edward Snowden, a former analyst at the agency, began leaking information about its programs earlier this year. Sensenbrenner has said that both the Obama and Bush administrations have misinterpreted a key part of the Patriot Act, Section 215, and used it as legal backing for its data collection.
“The NSA has gone far beyond the intent of the Patriot Act, particularly in the accumulation and storage of metadata,” Sensenbrenner told National Journal earlier this month. “Had Congress known that the Patriot Act had been used to collect metadata, the bill would have never been passed.”
An earlier draft of Sensenbrenner’s bill that circulated publicly would make the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court more transparent by requiring it disclose some of its decisions and install an “office of the special advocate,” which would be able to appeal the court’s decisions. It would also limit Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, grant the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board subpoena powers on matters of privacy and national security, and reduce the bulk data collection outline in Section 215 of the Patriot Act.
Since Amash’s attempt to restrict the NSA’s collection of phone records was defeated, the cascade of revelations about the scope of the NSA’s spying — both domestic and overseas — has continued since then. Earlier this week, German Chancellor Angela Merkel charged the U.S. with monitoring her cell phone, forcing President Obama to play damage control with yet another foreign head of state.
The Senate Intelligence Committee is also expected to vote Tuesday behind closed doors on legislation brought by committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., to appease surveillance critics by increasing transparency and accountability of FISA. Many activists charge that Feinstein’s efforts do not go far enough and largely keep the NSA surveillance apparatus in tact.
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Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
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Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”
The team behind the bestselling "Clinton Cash"—author Peter Schweizer and Breitbart's Stephen Bannon—is turning the book into a movie that will have its U.S. premiere just before the Democratic National Convention this summer. The film will get its global debut "next month in Cannes, France, during the Cannes Film Festival. (The movie is not a part of the festival, but will be shown at a screening arranged for distributors)." Bloomberg has a trailer up, pointing out that it's "less Ken Burns than Jerry Bruckheimer, featuring blood-drenched money, radical madrassas, and ominous footage of the Clintons."