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By: Armenian Weekly

WASHINGTON—U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin received a Congressional clarion call to action from Armenian Caucus Co-Chair David Valadao (R-Calif.), senior Foreign Affairs Committee member Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), and 29 of their U.S. House colleagues to renegotiate the existing, outdated Double Tax Treaty with Armenia, an obsolete Cold War-era accord—recognized today by the U.S. but not Armenia—that was negotiated with the now defunct U.S.S.R. more than four decades ago.

On the same day, Secretary Mnuchin, responding to growing Congressional interest, testified that the Treasury Department will dedicate staff resources to pursuing a U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty.

“We commend Representatives Valadao and Sherman and their colleagues—collectively representing over 22 million Americans—ffor taking concrete steps to eliminate obstacles to enhanced U.S.-Armenia trade by calling for a new U.S.-Armenia Tax Treaty,” said ANCA Board Member Aida Dimejian.  “Beyond the immediate benefits of preventing double taxation, such an accord would reinforce the friendship of the American and Armenian peoples, facilitate the expansion of bilateral economic relations, thereby deepening Armenia’s ties to the West and providing Yerevan with greater strategic options and independence in dealing with regional powers.”

“American and Armenian business have close ties and it’s time to end the double taxation currently imposed on businesses in both nations,” explained Rep. Valadao.  “By renegotiating our tax treaty with Armenia, we can continue to strengthen our relationship with a close ally while encouraging trade and investment in our great nations,” he continued.

“Modernizing our double tax treaty with Armenia is long overdue,” explained Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), who pressed Secretary Mnuchin on the issue during the House Financial Services Committee hearing earlier today. “This is not only an opportunity to reaffirm our friendship with Armenia, but to also create new opportunities for investment and growth.”

Joining Representatives Valadao and Sherman in calling on Secretary Mnuchin to take action are House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), House Intelligence Committee Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) and Dave Trott (R-Mich.), Vice-Chair Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.) and Representatives: Julia Brownley (D-Calif.), Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-RI), Mike Coffman (R-CO), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Tom Suozzi (D-N.Y.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), and Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.).

The Congressional letter notes that “The existing Soviet-era treaty does not reflect the increasing complexity of a globalized world and the friendship between the American and Armenian peoples,” then calls upon Secretary Mnuchin to, “prioritize the renegotiation of the double tax treaty with Armenia.” The letter also underscores that “the complexities of the international tax structure should not discourage American and Armenian companies from conducting business with each other due to double taxation. The need for updated guidelines that reflect the current state of U.S.-Armenian relations and recently passed tax reform legislation cannot be understated.”

The full text of the Valadao-Sherman letter is available here.

Background

Following the signing of the U.S.-Armenia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) in 2015, the ANCA has been working closely with a broad range of legislators to encourage the Department of Treasury to negotiate a new U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty. In September 2017, the ANCA joined with Paul Korian and Peklar Pilavjian, leading U.S. investors in Yerevan’s landmark Marriott hotel, for a series of Capitol Hill and State Department meetings making the case for an updated compact. Internationally renowned Tufenkian Artisan Carpets; Triada Studio, the Armenia-based creator of the Apple Design Award-winning Shadowmatic Game; and PicsArt, the Yerevan and San Francisco based makers of one of the most popular photo-editing, collage and drawing apps, are among the many firms urging the lifting of barriers to U.S.-Armenia trade through the implementation of a new double-tax treaty.

A U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty would establish a clear legal framework for investors and individuals that have business activities in both jurisdictions, preventing double taxation and facilitating the expansion of economic relations. It would also help reinforce the friendship of the American and Armenian peoples, anchoring Armenia to the West, and providing Yerevan with greater strategic options and independence in dealing with regional powers.

The U.S. has double tax treaties with many small countries, including Estonia, Jamaica, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, and Slovenia. Armenia has double tax treaties with many advanced countries, including Austria, Belgium, Canada, China, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, and the United Kingdom.

For the latest ANCA fact sheet about the benefits of an updated U.S.-Armenia Double Tax treaty, visit: https://anca.org/taxtreaty

Steven Nelson of the Washington Examiner

An attorney selected to advise the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court says he might have recommended against surveilling former Trump campaign adviser Carter Page. But he was never asked for an opinion.

John Cline was one of the first people designated by the shadowy court’s judges as eligible to advise them on privacy and other intelligence collection issues, but he was not consulted on the Page case — or any other — during his two years on the amici curiae roster.

Cline served as an on-call expert alongside five others when the FBI and Justice Department sought a warrant to spy on Page, a businessman who had worked in Russia, on Oct. 21, 2016. The government received the warrant the same day, and later three 90-day renewals.

House Intelligence Committee Republicans argued in a memo released Friday that surveillance of Page improperly hinged on opposition research compiled by ex-British spy Christopher Steele, who was paid by Democrats and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign. It also argued that information wasn't available to the court, though that point has been disputed.

“If I had access to the underlying application, I might have argued that the Steele dossier was unreliable because of its origins, and perhaps for other reasons as well,” Cline told the Washington Examiner Monday.

It’s unclear if any of the other eligible FISC amici curiae were consulted on the Page case, but people familiar with the panel of experts say their opinion is rarely solicited.

The role of FISC amici curiae was created by the 2015 USA Freedom Act, a law that ended the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of U.S. call records and made various reforms to enhance privacy and transparency. The role was seen as a way to bring balance to the FISC, where judges often only hear the government's arguments.

The Freedom Act says the FISC “shall” use amici when confronted with “a novel or significant interpretation of the law, unless the court issues a finding that such appointment is not appropriate,” and “may” use amici “in any instance as such court deems appropriate.”

The reform law's lead sponsor, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said he would like to see the amici role strengthened in the wake of the Page memo.

“The recently released memo raised many concerns about the intelligence community’s use of FISA and Congress’ oversight of these powers,” Sensenbrenner told the Examiner. “As Congress moves forward with investigating these matters, we should reconsider strengthening the role of the amici curiae for FISC to ensure that every American’s Fourth Amendment right is properly protected.”

The FBI and Democrats on the House Intelligence Committee say the GOP's memo misrepresented classified information and made inaccurate and incomplete claims about secret court filings. Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said the memo inaccurately said that the government withheld information about the political nature of Steele’s work.

Some experts, such as Fourth Amendment scholar Orin Kerr, a law professor at George Washington University, argue the probable-cause standard for a warrant might have been met even with Steele’s partisan motives known to judges. “We just can’t tell” based on evidence in the GOP memo, Kerr wrote.

An attorney who has appeared before the FISA court and believes the public should have confidence in the surveillance of Page said amici should be used more often.

“Thus far, the amici have been underutilized by the lower court — the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court — but appropriately utilized by the Court of Review, which has appointed amici in each case before it since the statute was passed,” the attorney said.

The attorney, who asked not to be named, said the public should trust the FISC process involving Page, citing the role of many Justice Department officials and FISC judges. The attorney alleged a malicious effort to “undermine public trust in these institutions,” but said “appointing amicus should provide an additional defense against such claims.”

In late December, Cline — a prominent attorney in national defense cases, helping represent Iran Contra figure Oliver North, accused Chinese spy Wen Ho Lee, and Dick Cheney aide Lewis “Scooter” Libby — quit his position as a FISC adviser, writing that in more than two years he had never been asked by the court or its appellate body to weigh in on a case.

In his resignation letter, Cline wrote that he believed some of the other amici were also never asked for input and the rest weighed in on “only a small handful of matters.”

“I am concerned that my continued service as amicus might create the impression that I am participating in the courts’ work, when in fact I am not,” he wrote.

“I hope that, whatever else comes of the controversy over the Page FISC order, it will introduce some appropriate transparency into the FISA process,” Cline told the Examiner. “Congress should exercise greater public oversight over the FISA process, consistent with legitimate national security concerns; and ... the FISC — or Congress, if the FISC declines to act — should expand the role of amici curiae."

Although Cline said he could imagine objecting to the legal basis for surveilling Page, he said the fact that court files remain classified makes it difficult to say for sure.

“It’s hard to know for sure what arguments were available because we haven’t seen the full [Page warrant] application — only the [House Intelligence Committee] majority’s interpretation of portions of it,” Cline said. “Once the [committee] minority memo is out — assuming President Trump releases it — we’ll have a better idea what the Page FISA application actually contained and what arguments an amicus could have made against issuance of the FISA order.”

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.