Washington, D.C.—Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) released the following statement after supporting H.R. 4712, the Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act:

“All human life is sacred and deserving of legal protection, no matter how young or small. This legislation ensures that every child who survives an attempted abortion receives the same emergency medical treatment as any other newborn child. It also holds accountable any medical professional who neglects, or even worse, takes action to kill a child. I am proud to support it and will continue to defend all human life.”

Background:

In 2002, President George W. Bush signed the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act into law after it passed Congress unanimously. This law recognizes personhood for human children born alive.

The 2002 law, however, did not provide any enforcement measures against medical practitioners who neglect survivors of attempted abortions. After a botched or failed procedure, the fate of these children is left up to the abortionist. All too often, such as in the case of late-term abortionist Kermit Gosnell, survivors of the brutal procedure are killed or left to die.

The Born-Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act requires healthcare practitioners to provide the same level of care to an abortion survivor as would be reasonably provided to any other child born at a similar stage of development. The bill also requires that a surviving child is immediately transported and admitted to a hospital.

Medical practitioners who fail to meet the bill’s requirements face new criminal penalties. H.R. 4712 also gives women legal recourse against those who do not comply with the law.

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) signed a letter  requesting that the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence (HPSCI) release a classified memo to the public. According to reports, the four-page memo details the alleged abuse of programs created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).

Sensenbrenner: “The Fourth Amendment is a right, not a recommendation. Just last week, Congress debated the merits of extending certain FISA authorities. Now, these reports raise concerns about what was omitted from that debate. The American people deserve to know the full extent of any surveillance abuses by the intelligence community. This memo should be released publicly so that we can begin to restore trust in government.”

By Lexi Mealey of the Harvard Political Review

On June 5, 2013, the National Security Agency, an agency that had operated in near-secrecy for 60 years, was dragged into the light by the release of many of its covert surveillance operations. Edward Snowden, then a 29-year-old analyst for the NSA, stole an estimated 1.7 million documents, including communications records of American citizens, intelligence on foreign allies, and internet metadata, and released them to global media outlets. Rage ensued from all corners of the political spectrum in light of the breaches of privacy. Much of this rage, however, was not directed toward the agency that had perpetrated the injustices, but toward Edward Snowden, the man who revealed it.

The vast expansion of government surveillance over the past 15 years has produced new challenges to civil liberties. Public outcry against perceived traitors like Snowden is only counterproductive to keeping the government accountable for violations of privacy.

With the rise of internet surveillance and metadata collection, security now stands more at odds with privacy than ever before. Leaks about NSA activity have sparked momentary public outrage, but much of this anger has been misdirected towards whistleblowers, rather than the government itself. This complacency toward government surveillance networks reveals an American willingness to forgo privacy for the appearance of security, creating a crisis for civil liberties.

FISA Court Failure

Among the Snowden revelations was the uncovering of PRISM, a massive surveillance program that allows the government to collect information on private user exchanges from nine large companies, including Google, Facebook, and Microsoft.  While PRISM requires that the NSA get a warrant for content of online communications, these warrants originate from the controversial Foreign Intelligence and Surveillance Court. In the FISC, all communications are done ex parte; the accused have no ability to challenge warrants. Moreover, the FISC has no ability to know whether its orders are being followed by the NSA, and recent reports reveal that the agency habitually exceeds the limits set on surveillance by the court. Indeed, according to the American Civil Liberties Union, released court documents indicate that, “the NSA exceeded the scope of authorized [metadata] acquisition continuously during the more than [redacted] years of acquisition under these orders,” and that “NSA’s record of compliance with these rules has been poor.”

Among the Snowden revelations was a FISC order to Verizon for the release of metadata on millions of American phone calls to the NSA and the FBI. The concept that a warrant could authorize such large-scale domestic surveillance is antithetical to the constitutional notion of privacy. The Fourth Amendment is grounded in the principle that warrants are pertinent to the specific individuals, locations, and objects being targeted for search and seizure. By casting an unusually wide net, the FISC order to Verizon fails to comply with these criteria and therefore runs contrary to one of our most basic legal conceptions of privacy.

Though many members of the American public find the FISC troubling in its secrecy, some leaders in the intelligence community take a starkly different stance.“[The FISC] is odd. You think it’s odd because it’s secret, I think it’s odd because it exists,” Michael Hayden, a four-star general and former director of the NSA, CIA, and of National Intelligence, told the HPR. “No one else has put espionage decisions, which are usually under the executive, under the court.” Hayden is a vocal opponent of Edward Snowden and has repeatedly defended metadata collection and FISC warrants. In continuing in their defense, Hayden discounted the judge who eventually ruled the warrant unconstitutional: “That’s just the one crazy judge who had more exclamation points in his opinion than he did precedent.”

Contradictions in Complacency

The release of the Snowden documents sparked outrage that privacy advocates hoped would spur government action—the results, however, fell short of expectations. The only legal repercussions for NSA activities were the declaration of the FISC order for phone records as unconstitutional, and the passage of a gutted NSA reform bill. The section on metadata collection, the bill’s largest focus, was left ambiguous to allow the NSA to continue to function with little oversight. Before the bureaucratically amended version of the bill passed, the largest technology companies retracted their support and civil liberties leaders in Congress, such as Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) votedagainst it. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), the bill’s sponsor, said in an interview with NPR, “I wish this bill did more. To my colleagues who lament the changes, I agree with you.”

Nonetheless, the public was appeased. Media fervor died down, Snowden fled the country, and the NSA quietly returned to its surveillance practices. With such supposed fervor for individual liberties, why were Americans content to let surveillance slip from public view? Why were members of Congress so willing to succumb to bureaucratic pressures after decrying NSA overreach? Why aren’t we still talking about Edward Snowden?

Answers to these questions become even more elusive when we consider American attitudes towards surveillance and whistleblowers. A 2015 study conducted by the Pew Research Center revealed that 93 percent of American adults believe that having control over who gets their information is important, and 90 percent said that controlling what information is collected about them is important. Additionally, 88 percent say it is important that they are not watched or eavesdropped on without their permission. Even so, only 31 percent of the Pew sample said that they are at all confident that government agencies can keep their records private and secure, with only six percent saying that they are “very confident.”

New insights suggest that this contradiction between American attitudes and the reality of surveillance may arise from widespread feelings of resignation, the notion that an individual is powerless in stopping unwanted breaches of privacy. In studying online data collection for advertising purposes, researchers from the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg School for Communication revealed in 2015 that while 84 percent of respondents wanted control over what online marketers knew about them, 65 percent agreed that they had little control over their data. While the survey did not ask respondents about NSA surveillance practices, trends from the Pew survey, in which respondents largely wanted control over their privacy and yet did not trust the government to keep their records private, seem strikingly similar, with only 31 percent of respondents confident that their records can be kept private. The public has not been given an alternative to data collection, and it feels powerless in stopping it.

Despite apparent American support for privacy as a concept, citizens remain largely disapproving of whistleblowers who reveal violations of privacy. In 2015, US Newsreported that 64 percent of Americans surveyed held a negative view of Edward Snowden. Moreover, just 54 percent of Americans disapproved of NSA programs in 2014.

The HPR interviewed a spokesperson for the NSA to examine the root of this disapproval, beginning with agency’s operations and oversight. An NSA spokesperson told the HPR that the system of oversight provided by Congress, the Executive Branch, and the courts “ensures that the civil liberties and privacy of U.S. persons are protected.” This oversight, however, has faced intense scrutiny since the Snowden leaks. Even Hayden, a former director of the NSA, told the HPR that much of the public has become “no longer as willing to outsource the review, approval, and legitimizing of American espionage to the Congress and government as they once were.”

The NSA spokesperson said that the NSA has “made huge strides” in transparency within the last few years and shares “as much information as possible with the public.” Transparency was indeed improved slightly in 2017 when the NSA vowed to stop collecting communications that simply mentioned a foreign target. However, it is important to keep in mind this limited transparency was not volunteered by the NSA as a benevolent attempt to include the American public—it was demanded by American civilians. The NSA only became more transparent because the citizenry would no longer tolerate secrecy.

Privacy, Security, and Pushing Back

In the post-9/11 world, Americans seem to be more concerned with security than they are with privacy, willing to sacrifice civil liberties for the sake of feeling protected from terror threats. In another 2015 Pew survey, 49 percent of respondents stated that NSA programs had not gone far enough to protect them, as opposed to the 37 percent who were concerned that NSA programs had gone too far and encroached on civil liberties.

The threat of terrorism has further complicated the idea of transparency in intelligence. When the NSA releases information about surveillance practices to the public, it runs the risk of releasing it to terror suspects as well. Revealing information about surveillance operations would, according to Hayden, drive terrorist operations onto channels that are less likely to be monitored. Hayden justified total secrecy in surveillance operations: “Intelligence is the business of stealing things other people want to hide from you…I don’t think anybody questions the premise that espionage is best done in secrecy.”

Espionage may well be a practice that is best conducted in secrecy; however, unwarranted surveillance on the American public at large is not necessary. In a nation that was founded on the principle of liberty from government tyranny, a republican government should not be “stealing” information from its citizenry. The fact that both criminals and law abiding civilians use common technologies like cell phones and the internet certainly complicates the concepts of espionage and security, but it does not complicate it to a degree that justifies metadata collection on millions of civilian communications. American citizens must demand due diligence and transparency from intelligence agencies in order to preserve basic privacy rights.

To individuals like Dan Balz, chief correspondent for the Washington Post, the media is an optimal venue for Americans to demand accountability. In a recent interview with the HPR, Balz said that media outlets have always believed that “there is too much secrecy in government,” and that the media is “always trying to break down those barriers.” Balz went on to say that “the role of the media is to keep shining a bright light … the more transparency, the better.”

Though the media goal of demanding accountability and transparency may be noble, a story can only be a headline for so long. When the media moves on, individuals tend to do the same, and the secrecy of surveillance operations make them particularly easy to forget. Since surveillance agencies tend to keep the public in the dark, leaks have become the main source of information on mass surveillance operations. The NSA practices in the shadows, releasing only information that benefits the agency. With little but sporadic leaks of information to rely on, it has become easier for the American public keep the NSA in the darkness and pretend that it does not exist.

Surveillance agencies have played fast and loose with the Fourth Amendment’s protections from unwarranted searches and seizures of property, not only through dubious FISC rulings, but also by overstepping even the boundaries set by the court on intelligence agencies. Americans have been presented with incomplete information regarding the NSA. Public complacency is not because Americans have become apathetic, but because they have been given no alternative to mass surveillance. The current nature of surveillance turns the right to privacy into a privilege, but it is the responsibility of American citizens to actively seek a change to the new social norm of government oversight.

By: Jacob Sullum of Reason

Over the course of two hours last Thursday morning, Donald Trump offered two diametrically opposed takes on a surveillance bill making its way through Congress. Both were wrong.

The FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017, which the House approved last week and the Senate is consideringthis week, has nothing to do with purported wiretapping at Trump Tower or any other direct surveillance of the Trump campaign, as the president initially suggested. But neither is its impact limited to "foreign bad guys on foreign land," as Trump said in a corrective tweet after alarmed advisers explained his administration's position to him.

The bill would renew for six years Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which authorizeswarrantless collection of communications between people in the United States and people in other countries when "a significant purpose" of the snooping is obtaining "foreign intelligence information." Although the official target is supposed to be a "non-U.S. person" (i.e., neither a U.S. citizen nor a legal permanent resident) who is believed to be located in a foreign country, the National Security Agency "incidentally" gathers a great deal of information about Americans, including their international emails, chat sessions, and phone calls.

Once the information has been collected, the FBI can peruse it at will, looking for evidence of crimes that may have nothing to do with foreign intelligence (itself a very broad category), let alone terrorism or national security. Section 702 thus gives the FBI and other law enforcement agencies a way to dodge the Fourth Amendment's ban on unreasonable searches and seizures, which is generally understood to require a warrant based on probable cause for surveillance that reveals the content of private conversations.

The bill that the House approved implicitly acknowledges this problem by requiring a warrant to search Section 702 data about Americans—but only when the FBI is looking for information about someone who is already the target of a criminal investigation (and only when the investigation is not related to national security). Criminal suspects, in other words, would receive more privacy protection than people who the government has no reason to believe have broken the law.

The FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act also opens the door to reviving a suspended program that collected international communications "about" a foreign intelligence target. That kind of surveillance can pick up exchanges where neither party is the target and, due to technical problems in screening out domestic internet traffic, even when both parties are in the United States.

Last week, by a vote of 233 to 183, the House rejected an amendment that would have required a warrant for searches of Section 702 data and for surveillance partly motivated by a desire to collect information about Americans. That amendment, known as the USA RIGHTS Act, also would have explicitly banned "about" surveillance and limited the use of Section 702 information to cases involving foreign intelligence or national security.

The legislators who supported the USA RIGHTS Act included conservative Republicans such as James Sensenbrenner (Wis.) and Ted Poe (Texas) as well as progressive Democrats such as Jared Polis (Colo.) and Barbara Lee (Calif.). They were united by a belief that constitutional rights must be respected even when they inconvenience people who think invoking national security should be the end of the argument.

"Our Founders gave us the Fourth Amendment to prevent a tyrannical government from invading our privacy, and we are fools to relinquish that hard-won right because of fear," writes Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), who cosponsored the USA RIGHTS Act in the Senate and has vowed to fight reauthorization of Section 702 without reforms. "The Founders did not include the Fourth Amendment in the Bill of Rights as a suggestion."

When the president thought Section 702 was used to "badly surveil and abuse the Trump Campaign," he was indignant. If only he could spare some of that passion for a principle that protects the privacy of all Americans.

By: Ronald Bailey of Reason

James Clapper, then the Director of National Intelligence, flat out liedto Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) at Senate hearing on March 12, 2013 when he was asked whether the National Security Agency collects "any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans." Clapper replied, "No sir. Not wittingly."

The fact that Clapper had wittingly lied to Congress was made clear just three months later by whistleblower and patriot Edward Snowden's revelations of the vast extent of the NSA's warrantless electronic spying on Americans.

Clapper should have been prosecuted for lying long ago. The statute of limitations on perjury will run out this coming March, so time is of the essence. The Washington Examiner cites numerous lawmakers urgently calling for the prosecution of Clapper including Representatives Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), and Ted Poe (R-Tex.) who argues, "The time for the Department of Justice and the FBI to bring the accusations against James Clapper in front of a grand jury is long overdue. He and others who have held administrative power must be held accountable to the same laws that govern the people of the United States."

Evan Greer from the privacy activist group Fight for the Future tells the Examiner:

"James Clapper lied to Congress, and to the American people, about U.S. government surveillance programs that allow agencies like the NSA and FBI to constantly monitor all of us without due process or any suspicion of wrongdoing. Allowing the government to turn our computers and phones into spies that we take with us everywhere we go is detrimental to human rights and has a chilling effect on freedom of expression, but the worst part is that there is zero evidence that these programs have ever stopped a single violent attack."

"What makes these mass government surveillance programs so dangerous is that they're allowed to operate without any meaningful accountability or oversight," Greer added. "The fact that James Clapper is free to go about his life while Edward Snowden is still exiled is a travesty of justice."

Yes, it is.

Of course, when Clapper is found guility at trial (as he surely would be), the former spy chief should be sentenced to prison for five years for his perjury.

By: Steven Nelson of the Washington Examiner

Some lawmakers would like to see the Justice Department prosecute former spy chief James Clapper for inaccurate testimony to Congress about domestic surveillance before it's too late.

Privacy-conscious critics say looming five-year statutes of limitation for perjury and making false statements — establishing a March 12 deadline for charges — make an urgent case for action, and that nonprosecution would set a dangerous precedent that impedes oversight and executive-branch accountability.

Clapper, director of national intelligence from 2010 to 2017, testified during a March 2013 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing that the NSA was "not wittingly” collecting “any type of data at all” on millions of Americans. Months later, former NSA contractor Edward Snowden revealed secret court orders forced phone companies to turn over all U.S. call records on an “ongoing, daily basis.”

In an apology letter, Clapper wrote that he gave a “clearly erroneous” answer because he “simply didn’t think of” the call-record collection. But in an MSNBC interview he offered a different explanation, saying he gave the “least untruthful” answer because he was “asked a, ‘When are you going to stop beating your wife?’ kind of question, meaning not answerable necessarily by a simple yes or no.”

Lawmakers from both parties, but primarily Republicans supportive of new limits on surveillance, called for Clapper's prosecution during the Obama administration, without success. Several renewed their calls as the deadline nears.

"The time for the Department of Justice and the FBI to bring the accusations against James Clapper in front of a grand jury is long overdue,” said Rep. Ted Poe, R-Texas. “He and others who have held administrative power must be held accountable to the same laws that govern the people of the United States."

“Yes, he should be prosecuted," said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky. "He admitted to lying to Congress and was unremorseful and flippant about it. The integrity of our federal government is at stake because his behavior sets the standard for the entire intelligence community. The same goes for James Comey, who secretly leaked documents that he was not legally permitted to release."

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, meanwhile, said Clapper “should be prosecuted for any and all lies he told to Congress.”

Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., who warned then-Attorney General Eric Holder that nonprosecution would make new limits on mass surveillance pointless because “officials are at liberty to lie about enforcing [the law]," also renewed his call for charges.

"Complete and truthful testimony is imperative for Congress to conduct effective oversight. It is clear from the evidence and Director Clapper’s own admission that he lied to the Senate intelligence committee," said Sensenbrenner, lead sponsor of 2015 legislation that ended the call-record collection. "Political consideration should not affect the Department of Justice from pursuing this matter. That was true in 2013 when it happened and remains true today."

Katherine Hawkins, an investigator at the nonpartisan Project On Government Oversight, said Congress used to be better at seeking in a bipartisan manner prosecutions for perjury, particularly after the Watergate scandal in the 1970s. She said, over the years a large gap emerged between vigorously prosecution of lies to the FBI and those to Congress, something she blames on politics.

“It’s really unfortunate the extent to which there is systematic nonenforcement on the law for making false statements to Congress, and this is only one example,” Hawkins said. One reason for nonenforcement, she believes, is that “very often in high profile cases, it’s a senior member of one of the political parties who’s accused of saying something that’s not true.”

The phone-record program revealed by Snowden was unknown to many lawmakers not serving on intelligence committees or in senior leadership posts. Congress voted to end the automatic bulk collection with Sensenbrenner's USA Freedom Act after some federal courts ruled against its legality.

The NSA’s separate internet-collection programs, underpinned by Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, also collect domestic records, but intelligence officials have struggled to quantify the number placed into databases that can be searched without a warrant. Executive branch officials argue that law is essential to preventing terrorism and the House of Representatives last week voted to renew Section 702 through 2023 without major changes. The legislation cleared a key procedural vote in the Senate Tuesday.

Evan Greer, a privacy activist with the group Fight for the Future, said Clapper’s testimony remains relevant to debate about surveillance policy.

"James Clapper lied to Congress, and to the American people, about U.S. government surveillance programs that allow agencies like the NSA and FBI to constantly monitor all of us without due process or any suspicion of wrongdoing,” she said. “Allowing the government to turn our computers and phones into spies that we take with us everywhere we go is detrimental to human rights and has a chilling effect on freedom of expression, but the worst part is that there is zero evidence that these programs have ever stopped a single violent attack.“

“What makes these mass government surveillance programs so dangerous is that they're allowed to operate without any meaningful accountability or oversight," Greer added. "The fact that James Clapper is free to go about his life while Edward Snowden is still exiled is a travesty of justice."

Although lying to Congress is rarely prosecuted, there are some recent examples.

In 2007, second-ranking Interior Department official J. Steven Griles pleaded guilty to lying to senators about links to lobbyist Jack Abramoff. Baseball player Miguel Tejada pleaded guilty to lying to Congress in 2009 after giving false testimony in 2005 about performance-enhancing drugs. Player Roger Clemens was acquitted in 2012 of similarly lying to Congress.

Still, defense attorney Mark Zaid, who works with national security whistleblowers seeking to lawfully come forward, scoffed at the idea of Clapper standing trial.

“I can't fathom he would ever be prosecuted. And I honestly don't think it's so black or white as to a conviction. It's more complicated than people see," he said.

Zaid said that “Clapper was faced with a difficult choice: reveal classified information or respond in a [manner] that is not accurate,” and that although “there is no specific national security defense” for perjury, he believes “an argument can be made that he didn't lie to Congress because that committee knew the information already. [Democratic Oregon Sen. Ron] Wyden essentially trapped him intentionally.”

A spokesman for Clapper did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Since retiring last year, Clapper has taken a leading role criticizing President Trump on television.

Clapper told CNN in December that Russian President Vladimir Putin “knows how to handle an asset and that’s what he’s doing with the president” after a phone call between the leaders. In another interview last month, Clapper said about Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, “if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and flies like a duck, it sure looks like obstruction to me.”

In August, Trump lashed out on Twitter after Clapper told CNN “I really question his ability to — his fitness to be — in this office" and “I worry about, frankly, access to the nuclear codes.”

Trump responded: “James Clapper, who famously got caught lying to Congress, is now an authority on Donald Trump. Will he show you his beautiful letter to me?” Clapper said through an aide that the letter was short and not so beautiful.

The Justice Department declined to comment on whether it is weighing charges against Clapper. The department’s leader, Attorney General Jeff Sessions, was criticized by Trump last year for being “VERY weak” on Hillary Clinton and leakers, but the denunciations and promised action resulted in no additional leak charges and it’s unclear if pressure would result in a case against Clapper. Sessions also faces accusations of giving Congress misleading testimony, regarding his contact with Russia’s former ambassador.

Wyden, the lawmaker to whom Clapper gave the inaccurate answer, could not be reached for comment on whether the former national intelligence director should stand trial. But Wyden long has insisted that the mistruth was no innocent mistake. He said the question was provided beforehand, and that he asked Clapper to correct the record, in vain, afterward.

Wyden said in a recent interview that “Clapper’s lie about mass surveillance was so damaging to public trust in government” and that “Clapper said he made an error, but that’s not how I see it. He didn’t just lie to me, he lied to the American people.” Wyden told the Cipher Brief that “when politicians argue in bad faith about what laws do, it makes it easier for skeptics to dismiss everyone in Congress, in politics, as a liar. It makes it possible, even probable, for hucksters and authoritarians to take power."

By: Todd Ruger of Roll Call

The Supreme Court will decide whether businesses must collect sales tax on online transactions in states where they don’t have a physical presence, in a case closely watched by lawmakers, states and online retailers.

The case gives the justices a chance to reshape internet commerce, something Congress hasn’t done since the high court last ruled on the issue in 1992. Back then, the court barred states from collecting sales tax from vendors that were out of state.

But with the growth of companies such as Amazon and eBay in the past 25 years, states miss out on collecting billions of dollars in sales and use taxes annually because of that Supreme Court ruling, called Quill Corp v. North Dakota.

South Dakota, which brought the challenge now at the court, has urged the justices to overturn that ruling, describing it as “proven entirely out of date” and “a severely criticized, constitutional holding that itself warned when decided that it might later be reconsidered.” The state is particularly hard hit because it does not have an income tax, so sales taxes are critical to its economy.

That Quill decision not only deprives states and local governments of critical revenue, “but also of a power the Constitution and Tenth Amendment fully reserved to them,” South Dakota wrote in its petition.

“The damage to the Framers’ design is done when the States must go begging to Congress for powers that belong to them by right, as 25 years of congressional inaction on this issue have vividly shown,” the petition said.

Four senators and one congresswoman filed a brief urging the Supreme Court to hear the case and overrule the 1992 decision, conceding that Congress has been unable to reach a consensus on a legislative solution.

Senate Budget Chairman Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming and GOP Rep. Kristi Noem of South Dakota, who introduced bills on the issue last year, were joined by Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Richard J. Durbin of Illinois and Republican Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee in signing the brief. Former Democratic Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan also signed it.

“That impasse is, in our view, largely due to the structural advantages and disadvantages created by the Quill decision,” the lawmakers state in the brief.

The court created the current status quo that helps out-of-state sellers, the lawmakers said, and therefore states must persuade Congress and the president to act when there are “built-in, indeed intended, difficulties in enacting federal laws.”

But another group of lawmakers who sponsored legislation or efforts to resolve the issue, filed a brief asking the Supreme Court to stay out of it.

This group includes Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the ranking Democrat of the Senate Finance Committee, and Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, along with Republican Reps. Robert W. Goodlatte of Virginia, Jim Sensenbrenner of Wisconsin and Steve Chabot of Ohio, and Democratic Rep. Anna G. Eshoo of California.

“The fact that Congress thus far has not enacted a federal solution to the problem of the collection of State use taxes on sales by remote vendors should not be seen by the Court as a reason to give up on Congress,” the lawmakers wrote.

“Rather, the Court should recognize that a lasting solution will require compromise, and respect and accommodate the ongoing, diligent efforts of Congress to find a fair solution consistent with Constitutional norms,” they wrote.

Three justices had already expressed a desire to re-examine the Quill decision, including Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, who often casts the deciding vote on the nine-member court.

The court did not announce when oral arguments would be heard in the case.

By John Nichols of The Cap Times

New York Congressman Jerry Nadler, the ranking Democrat on the House Judiciary Committee and one of the chamber’s most ardent defenders of civil liberties, went to the floor of the House on Thursday with a simple request: that members reject the draconian FISA Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 2017.

Nader’s argument against this wrongheaded extension of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act was pointed and powerful: “When we came to Congress, each of us took an oath to defend and protect the Constitution of the United States. I ask that each of my colleagues honor that oath today — and that we work together to defeat this bill, and to bring the right set of reforms to the floor without delay.”

He explained that the legislation, which had the backing of the White House and Republican leaders in the House, proposed to reauthorize the federal government’s surveillance powers without adequate safeguards for the privacy rights of Americans. Noting that the legislation, which is supposed to protect against terror threats, “allows the FBI unfettered access to (federal database) information, for purely domestic cases, without a warrant,” Nader asked: “What does that mean, in the era of Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump?”

He answered: “It means that absolutely nothing stops the Department of Justice from trolling the database for evidence that you use marijuana, or failed to pay your taxes, or may be in the country unlawfully, or possess a firearm that you should not have.”

Nadler was not alone in his assessment. “The government will use this bill to continue warrantless intrusions into Americans’ private emails, text messages, and other communications,” warned Neema Singh Guliani, the policy counsel with the American Civil Liberties Union. "No president should have this power.”

Those concerns were sufficient to convince a bipartisan coalition of 164 House members to oppose the assault on privacy rights. Wisconsin U.S. Reps. Mark Pocan, D-town of Vermont, and Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, joined Nadler on the list of 119 Democrats who voted “no.”

They were joined by 45 Republicans, including U.S Reps. James Sensenbrenner, R-Menomonee Falls, and Sean Duffy, R-Wausau. Many, though not all, of the Republican dissenters were libertarian-leaning mavericks who recognized the threat that their respected colleague from New York was warning about. Others were merely responding to the concerns expressed by constituents about the dismantling of civil liberties by an increasingly intrusive federal government.

The combination of Democratic and Republican votes against the FISA reauthorization scheme added up to 164 “no” votes.

On the other side were 256 “yes” votes. The anti-privacy votes came from 191 Republicans — including House Speaker Paul Ryan of Janesville, Glenn Grothman of Glenbeulah and Mike Gallagher of Green Bay. That was not enough to approve the FISA bill. Unfortunately, 65 Democrats — including Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md. — voted with the Republicans.

If the full Democratic caucus had merely respected Nadler’s warning that the bill they were considering “pretends at reform while codifying some of the worst practices of the intelligence community,” the measure could have been beaten. Add 65 Democratic votes to the 164 “no” votes and you get 229 — a clear majority for civil liberties.

If nine abstaining Democrats — including Ron Kind, D-La Crosse — had voted “no,” the vote to affirm privacy rights could have gone as high as 238.

Defeating the FISA Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 2017 would have been a dramatic victory for the resistance not just to President Trump and Attorney General Sessions but to the authoritarian impulses of those who already have too much access to too much of our personal information. It would have also signaled that Democrats have achieved clarity, and unity, on some basic values such as respect for the Constitution, privacy rights, and civil liberties.

Noting that outspoken conservatives voted with progressive Democrats to block the FISA bill, Congressman Ro Khanna trenchantly framed the issue: “When (Michigan Republican Justin Amash and North Carolina Republican Mark Meadows, the chair of the House Freedom Caucus) vote against surveillance, but scores of Democrats vote for it, then it's fair to ask what does our party stand for? If we can’t be unified around the principle of civil liberties, then what is the soul of our party?”

The fight over whether to protect civil liberties now moves to the Senate, where Constitution-inspired Democrats and Republicans will continue the struggle.

Jerry Nadler’s message to the House holds true for the whole of the Congress: “Our right to privacy does not begin when the Department of Justice has a fully formed criminal case against us. Nor does it begin when prosecutors enter our emails and text messages into evidence against us in court. The Constitution guarantees far more than this. Our right to privacy protects us when the government first makes its decision to search our private communications for information it might find useful.”

"(This measure) falls well short of this basic guarantee,” concluded Nadler. “We therefore cannot — we must not — support this bill."

By: Conservative HQ

There are dozens of immigration “reform” ideas, proposals and bills floating around, and keeping them all straight has become a major problem for conservatives concerned that the Capitol Hill Republican establishment is going to sellout America’s national sovereignty and add to the pool of low wage immigrant workers threatening the quality of life of America’s working families.

We don’t understand why Republicans think that granting amnesty to millions of illegal aliens is the top priority they should tackle before the 2018 midterms, and we are inclined to agree with Rep. Andy Biggs (AZ-5) who recently wrote on Fox News:

Extending DACA or passing a larger amnesty bill before we build the promised border wall, before we take other actions to improve border security, before we beef up internal enforcement of our immigration laws, and before we remove the incentives to come and stay in America illegally would be a colossal mistake.

You can read Rep. Biggs’ well-reasoned argument for a “wall first” strategy through this link.

Of the many bills floating around in Congress two seem to be getting traction; one is a bill that seems to satisfy Rep. Biggs’ concept of the right way to approach the DACA problem and one is definitely a total abandonment of American sovereignty and a betrayal of the future of America’s working families.

Let’s start with the worst first.

The Hill’s Jourdain Carney reports a bipartisan group of liberal senators says they have clinched a deal among themselves on an immigration reform package that does not include the wall and grants eventual citizenship to tens of millions of illegal aliens.

Sens. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said Thursday the group of six senators has locked down an agreement amongst themselves on pairing a fix for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program with a border security package.

The group of senators holding the talks — which also includes Democratic Sens. Michael Bennet (Colo.) and Bob Menendez (N.J.) and Republican Sen. Cory Gardner (Colo.) — has been negotiating for months on a deal that would include a fix for DACA.

Carney reports their bill is expected to include legalization for DACA recipients, known as Dreamers, as well as a border security package and changes to the State Department's diversity visa lottery program and family-based immigration policies.

Durbin said the bill would include a pathway to citizenship not only for current DACA recipients, but other immigrants in the country illegally who would qualify for the program.

Meanwhile, Flake indicated that any changes to family-based immigration would be narrowly focused to the current DACA population and their family members, and not apply, as some Republicans want, to the entire immigration population.  

Flake also said senators had discussed reallocating some of the State Department's diversity lottery visas to people who have Temporary Protected Status (TPS), a program the Trump administration has been scaling back.

So, the Flake – Durbin bill doesn’t fund the wall, doesn’t eliminate chain migration, grants citizenship to DACA recipients and potentially to their lawbreaking parents, and doesn’t end the dangerous visa lottery program that has brought terrorists to our country.

In contrast to the Flake – Durbin disaster, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Michael McCaul (R-Texas), House Judiciary Committee Immigration and Border Security Subcommittee Chairman Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho), and House Homeland Security Committee Border and Maritime Security Subcommittee Chairwoman Martha McSally (R-Ariz.) have put forth a reasonable and detailed fix for the DACA mess.

Original cosponsors of the Securing America’s Future Act also include Judiciary Committee Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-5) and House Appropriations Committee Homeland Security Subcommittee Chairman John Carter (TX-31).

Goodlatte and his colleagues introduced the Securing America's Future Act (H.R. 4760). This bill bolsters enforcement of existing immigration law, makes important reforms to our legal immigration programs, secures the border, and provides a legislative solution for the current beneficiaries of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

Chairman Goodlatte explained that the Securing America's Future Act includes numerous reforms to ensure the enforcement of our immigration laws in the interior of our country. The legislation aims to reduce the number of individuals who overstay their visas, requires employers to use the E-Verify system to ensure that they hire legal workers, and makes it easier to remove individuals who are gang members and other criminals. Additionally, the legislation cracks down on dangerous sanctuary cities by withholding federal grants and prevents fraud and abuse in the asylum system.

The Securing America's Future Act reforms our legal immigration programs by ending chain migration, ending the Diversity Visa program, increasing the number of green cards available for skilled workers, and creating a new, workable agricultural guestworker program for America’s farmers and ranchers.

The bill strengthens the security of our southern border by authorizing the construction of a border wall, investing in new technology, and improving, modernizing, and expanding ports of entry. The bill also calls for an additional 5,000 Border Patrol Agents and 5,000 Customs and Border Protection Officers and requires the use of a biometric Entry-Exit system at all ports of entry.

Finally, the Securing America’s Future Act allows DACA beneficiaries to receive a 3-year renewable legal status, while ensuring that gang members, individuals who have criminal convictions, or convictions in juvenile court for serious crimes are not eligible for legal status.

Several years ago, Newt Gingrich argued that it was unlikely Americans would accept the internal enforcement regime necessary to identify and forcefully deport hundreds of thousands of DACA recipients and their families, so some legislative solution should be found to allow those who were productive members of society to stay in America.

Perhaps Newt was right, and if so, then we would propose a board, of say seven combat wounded veterans, to review every application and interview those who wish to stay. Their first question might be “What have you done to deserve the honor and privilege of living in America?” Any DACA applicant who failed to get five votes would be arrested and immediately deported without appeal.

Absent such a process, it seems to us that the Goodlatte bill could be a floor, below which Congress should not go, in crafting an immigration reform bill. The bill does the best job we’ve seen of meeting President Trump’s campaign promises and the conditions set forth by the President in his recent comments on what he wants to see in an immigration reform bill.

It goes without saying that the Flake – Durbin bill is a non-starter for conservatives, and that any Senator who supports it should be a prime target for a conservative primary challenge.

Covered by: KCRG

WASHINGTON (Gray DC) -- Will Congress consider more help for milk farmers?

Wisconsin's federal officials are hoping that happens, but some are soured on help for the dairy industry.

Data from the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture shows the state lost about 500 dairy farms in 2017, a trend over the last decade. However, milk production has not dropped off.

Jaime Castaneda, senior vice president of the National Milk Producers Association, said, "Dairy farmers do not have a viable safety net."

Castaneda said a federal program, which is supposed to subsidize milk farmers when prices drop too low, doesn't work well enough.

He said, "Certainly, corn and soybean farmers have more protection."

Thursday, Senator Tammy Baldwin (D-WI) sent a letter to Senate leadership, saying "...Dairy farmers are facing yet another year of low prices and uncertain markets."

It's similar to a letter sent by three Wisconsin Republican congressmen [Mike Gallagher, Sean Duffy, and Jim Sensenbrenner] last November, and urges even faster reform to milk farmers' safety net.

Baldwin said, "I know the dairy sector is struggling, not just with issues of price."

While Wisconsin officials are calling for more dairy farm help by strengthening the existing subsidy program, some here on Capitol Hill say the subsidies should go away.

Darren Bakst, an agriculture policy expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation said, "We continue to see legislators seeking to get special handouts for special interests."

Bakst said the dairy industry doesn't actually need help, arguing the industry is twisting the data to make the market look sour.