Skip to content

Washington, D.C.—Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05), introduced the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues (SOFA) Act that will save lives by fighting the spread of fentanyl analogues. Specifically, the bill adds nineteen identified fentanyl analogues to the Schedule I drug list and provides the Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) with the tools needed to quickly add other analogues as they are identified. 

Sensenbrenner: “With the opioid crisis tearing apart families across Wisconsin and the U.S., we must ramp up efforts to stop the proliferation of these drugs. This important legislation closes the loophole that allows these deadly drugs to continue pouring into our neighborhoods. It also provides law enforcement with the necessary tools to more effectively identify and schedule new fentanyl analogues. As Co-chair of the Congressional Addiction, Treatment, and Recovery Caucus, I will continue working with my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to end this epidemic.”

Background on the SOFA Act:

Fentanyl is currently classified as a Schedule II controlled substance used to treat cancer patients. However, it is dangerous and can be lethal outside of the careful supervision of a doctor. Fentanyl abuse is one of the leading contributors to the opioid epidemic.

A new chemical compound, known as an analogue, is created by modifying one small piece of the chemical structure of fentanyl. These compounds fall into a legal loophole and contribute to the alarming rate of opioid-related deaths in the U.S. In fact, data from the Center for Disease Control (see below) indicates that synthetic opioids, which includes fentanyl and its analogues, are the leading cause of drug overdoses.

Analogue producers are likely to continue developing new variations, and law enforcement agencies must have the tools to adapt to these changes. Under current law, DEA scheduling practices are reactive in nature. Typically, fentanyl analogues are only scheduled after they have resulted in deaths across multiples states.

The SOFA Act closes the legal loophole by adding nineteen known fentanyl analogues to the Schedule I list. It also gives the DEA the authority to immediately schedule new fentanyl analogues as they are discovered, making enforcement and scheduling procedures more proactive.

The bill shares the acronym of an organization started by Oconomowoc, WI resident Lauri Badura, who lost her son Archie to an overdose in 2014. Shortly after, she founded the faith-based non-profit Saving Others for Archie, Inc. to raise awareness and fight the opioid epidemic.

Lauri recently attended President Trump’s first State of the Union address as the guest of Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), who has introduced the Senate Version of SOFA.

The full text of H.R. 4922, the Stopping Overdoses of Fentanyl Analogues Act is available here.

Note: Congressman Sensenbrenner and Senator Johnson’s bills differ in the number of fentanyl analogues immediately scheduled.

Washington, DCCongressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) released the following statement after the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence made public a previously classified memorandum about potential abuses of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA):

Sensenbrenner: “Transparency is necessary for our system of checks and balances. I am glad that the American people can now read this memo for themselves. This document raises many questions and concerns about the intelligence community’s use of FISA and Congress’s oversight of those powers. As Congress continues to investigate this matter, it is important for the Executive Branch to be fully cooperative. The American people must know the facts surrounding the FBI and DOJ obtaining a FISA warrant and to what extent relevant information was purposefully withheld from FISC judges.”

He added: “I have been a leader in the debate about safeguarding the rights of Americans against surveillance abuses by the government. While I am confident in the overwhelming majority of law enforcement agents, we must remain vigilant in protecting the privacy rights of Americans.”

Washington, D.C.Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) released the following statement after President Trump gave his first State of the Union address:

“In his first year, President Donald Trump has restored a sense of confidence in the American people. By reducing red tape and signing historic tax reform, the Trump Administration has helped unleash the economy and improve the financial outlook of many Americans. Tonight, in his speech, the President outlined a bold and optimistic vision for an even safer and more prosperous America — expanding on economic successes, rebuilding our military, and enacting criminal justice reform. I am also encouraged by the President’s call for renewed bipartisanship, as we must come together to continue restoring liberty, ensuring security, and increasing opportunity for all.”

Brookfield, WICongressman Jim Sensenbrenner (WI-05) is hosting a series of public town hall meetings beginning this Sunday, January 28 in Germantown, WI. In 2017, Congressman Sensenbrenner held more town hall meetings than any other member of Congress, and has held more than 600 in-person meetings since 2011.

Rep. Sensenbrenner: “Town halls are a vital part of our representative government. I rely on direct feedback from my constituents, and look forward to another year of successful meetings. I hope to see everyone there.” 

Event details: 

Germantown Town Hall Meeting
Germantown Village Hall
N112W17001 Mequon Rd
Germantown, WI 53002
Sunday, January 28 at 7:00pm 

This event is free and open to all constituents of Wisconsin’s Fifth Congressional District as well as members of the press.

Constituents who are unable to attend are encouraged to share their feedback HERE.

An up-to-date list of upcoming Town Hall Meetings can be found HERE.

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."