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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement regarding President Obama’s nomination of Merrick Garland to the United States Supreme Court:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The next Supreme Court justice could dramatically change the direction of the Court for generations to come, and the American people deserve to have a say. This process has always been about principle, and the Senate is within its Constitutional rights to defer confirmation until Americans have the opportunity to voice their opinions.”
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement on the Senate passage of the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act (CARA):

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “I introduced the Comprehensive Addiction Recovery Act in the House because the devastation caused by the dramatic rise in heroin and opioid addiction is ruining thousands of lives and destroying entire communities. The passage of its bipartisan companion bill by the full Senate delivers renewed hope to everyone affected by addiction and offers life-changing solutions as part of our ongoing efforts to reform America’s broken criminal justice system.” 
It's no secret that America's criminal justice system is broken. From overpopulated prisons to high incarceration recidivism rates, the past few decades have shown that efforts to improve the system have fallen short — both in effectiveness and cost savings. The issues we face are vast and all-encompassing, and — as is often the case with large, complex problems — they can be difficult to visualize.

Many people want to easily explain the breakdown of our criminal justice system as something that only affects urban neighborhoods and those whom society has let fall behind, but that could not be further from the truth. Drug addiction, high incarceration rates and the monetary burdens of both, affect the entirety of the American population, spanning across urban, suburban and rural communities.

Nowhere is this more apparent than right here in Wisconsin.

Data released from a 2013 National Household Survey on Drug Use and Health report showed 4.3% of Wisconsin adults reported using heroin or other opioids that year — a dramatic increase from a decade earlier. What's more alarming is that statewide data reveals one-quarter of people who began using heroin were under the age of 25.

According to a 2014 report released by the Wisconsin State Council on Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse, "between 2006 and 2011, Wisconsin experienced a 350% increase in heroin samples submitted to the Wisconsin State Crime Laboratory by law enforcement. Further, according to the 2011 Milwaukee High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, Drug Trafficking Trends Survey of law enforcement agencies across the state, many agencies reported that heroin is an increasing problem within their jurisdiction, or in many instances, 'the number one drug problem in their jurisdiction.'"

In addition to the devastation addiction has on individuals and families, the monetary consequences of abuse are overwhelming for society. A 2001 report by the National Center for Biotechnology Information found that the economic cost of heroin use in the United States was a staggering $21.9 billion — Wisconsin accounted for approximately $220 million of that total. Among the factors contributing to this burdensome price tag are increased health care and judicial costs, criminal activity and unemployment.

In response to this growing epidemic, I introduced the Comprehensive Addiction and Recovery Act (CARA) in the House of Representatives. Companion legislation was recently passed by the Senate Judiciary Committee and awaits a full Senate vote. A multifaceted approach to solving the problems of addiction, CARA identifies solutions for every stage of addiction.

Unfortunately, opioid and heroin addiction is only one piece of the complex criminal justice crisis we face nationally, as well as on the state level.

Over the past three decades, America's prison population has more than quadrupled — from 500,000 in 1980 to more than 2.3 million today. Here in Wisconsin, an astounding one in 39 adults is under state correctional control.

Along with increased prison populations, is increased spending on both the national and state level. Research released by the Pew Charitable Trusts shows that between 1980 and 2013, national prison spending has increased by 595%, a staggering figure that is both irresponsible and unsustainable.

Currently, the federal prison system consumes more than 25% of the entire Department of Justice budget. In Wisconsin, lawmakers appropriated $2.5 billion to the state Department of Corrections in the 2011-2013 budget, an amount that is expected to rise before 2020. In fact, according to a 2012 article posted in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, that budget allotted more taxpayer dollars to state prisons and correctional facilities than to the University of Wisconsin System.

As a nation, we face nearly $20 trillion in debt. And although we fare better in Wisconsin thanks to the common sense policies enacted by Gov. Scott Walker and our Republican Legislature, we cannot afford the continuing financial burdens placed on us by our broken criminal justice system.

Last year, I introduced targeted legislation that tackles these issues based on proven fixes developed by states around the country. I have worked with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to find solutions that will reduce the taxpayer burden, heal fractured families and communities and save thousands of lives. There is more work to be done to achieve comprehensive criminal justice reform, but congressional lawmakers are making progress, and I believe many of the proposals made on the federal level can be just as effective on the state level.

Criminal justice reform can be achieved through cooperation, thoughtful legislating and the belief that some issues are bigger than party lines and partisan politics.

View this piece online here.
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner sent a letter to Secretary of the United States Navy Raymond Mabus, asking for his support in the naming of an SSN-774 Virginia-class attack submarine in honor of the State of Wisconsin:

Dear Mr. Secretary: 

I write to seek your support for naming a SSN-774 Virginia-class attack submarine in honor of the State of Wisconsin.

As you know, Virginia-class submarines are generally named after U.S. states.  So far, only two United States Navy ships have been named in honor of Wisconsin, most recently an Iowa-class battleship, the USS Wisconsin (BB-64) last served in the Gulf War.  After it’s decommissioning in September 1991, Wisconsin is no longer represented in the U.S. Navy fleet.  

The State of Wisconsin deserves a place in the fleet.  Wisconsin has a long and storied history in building and supplying U.S. Navy ships.  In fact, one of the country’s largest shipbuilders, Marinette Marine Corporation, was founded in Wisconsin in 1942 to help aid the allied war effort.  Having started small, it has now built hundreds of vessels for service in the U.S. Navy.  Many other Wisconsin companies are also involved in the production of U.S. Navy vessels; there is not a single congressional district in Wisconsin not involved in the shipbuilding industry.  Predictably, many of the parts and technology in the Virginia-class are manufactured in Wisconsin, including bearings, composites, computer products, valves, and generators.  

Wisconsin’s own submarine also serves as a tribute to all current and former Wisconsin sailors, many of whom have received some of the highest honors bestowed on sailors.  Because of the Virginia-class’s close combat and littoral capabilities, one veteran of particular note is Delafield’s Commander William Barker Cushing.  Commander Cushing gained notoriety for a nighttime raid in the littorals of the Roanoke River in October 1864 when he sunk the CSS Albemarle with a close-range torpedoing, helping turn control of the harbor back to Union and stopping the threat to the blockade.  He received a Thanks of Congress for his actions, and has had five ships named in his honor, including the first torpedo boat ever launched for the Navy.  But Cdr. Cushing is just one of the many men and women from Wisconsin who have served admirably in the U.S. Navy, and all would be honored to have a ship bear the name of their home state.

As the Secretary of the Navy, I understand that your office receives hundreds of letters and suggestions each year from citizens, military retirees, and members of Congress.  I thank you for your time and consideration of this request, and I look forward to your favorable reply.


F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Member of Congress
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement regarding Obamacare’s special enrollment periods:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “From the conception of the Affordable Care Act, I – along with my fellow Republican lawmakers – warned that it presented individuals ample opportunity to avoid paying for health insurance until they became ill. We’re now seeing evidence that through special enrollment periods, this is happening at great expense to the taxpayers. Obamacare has been a disaster from the start, and Congress needs to repeal and replace this irresponsible and fundamentally flawed law.”
Washington, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner released the following statement on President Obama signing the Judicial Redress Act into law: 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The President’s signing of the Judicial Redress Act shows America’s commitment to rebuilding trust between allies and demonstrates our nation’s willingness to act in good faith with our European allies to secure open lines of communication between law enforcement agencies. This is a significant achievement for our country, our allies, and for the safety and security of the United States.”  

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Representatives Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI) and Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX)  sent a letter to Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) Director James B. Comey regarding the use of cell-site simulators, known as Stingrays, on both the state and federal levels. Of particular interest is the use of nondisclosure agreements (NDA) to prohibit law enforcement from discussing use of Stingray technology. 

Congressman Sensenbrenner: 
“While Stingray technology is a powerful tool that helps intelligence agencies and law enforcement find wrongdoers, it should not have been deployed on our streets under a veil of secrecy.  The public has a right to debate the merits of the technology, and criminal defendants have a right to challenge the evidence against them.  The FBI’s use of nondisclosure agreements with state and local law enforcement is completely unacceptable.”

Congresswoman Jackson Lee:
 “The use of cell-site simulators, also known as Stingrays, in the United States is not at all transparent and it needs to be. We cannot put gag orders on our nation’s law enforcement.  While the FBI should have the authority to investigate crimes that already have occurred along with imminent criminal activity or threats to the homeland as well, stealth investigations using Stingrays should have safeguards. The FBI should immediately withdraw the non-disclosure agreements and replace them with guidance mandating that local police get probable cause warrants and directing them to begin disclosing accurate information to the public and the courts.”

Full text provided below:

Dear Director Comey:

A February 1, 2016, article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel highlighted the Milwaukee Police Department’s use of cell-site simulators, also known as Stingrays.  The Fourth Amendment implications of this technology are currently being debated by state legislatures, and courts are weighing the legal arguments.  We will watch closely as those debates unfold, but in the meantime, we are writing to raise serious reservations regarding the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) use of nondisclosure agreements (NDA) to prevent state and local police from discussing the use of Stingray technology.  

The NDA the Milwaukee Police Department signed reads:

In order to ensure that such wireless collection equipment/technology continues to be available for use by the law enforcement community, the equipment/technology and any information related to its functions, operation, and use shall be protected from potential compromise by precluding disclosure of this information to the public in any manner including but not limited to: in press releases, in court documents, during judicial hearings, or during other public forums or proceedings. 

The FBI’s stated reason for secrecy was that disclosing the existence of the capabilities may allow “the subject of investigation wherein this equipment/technology is used to employ countermeasures to avoid detection by law enforcement.”  But certainly not lost on the FBI was the fact that secrecy shields the technology from debate and inevitable controversy.  Courts could not review its constitutionality.  The public could not debate the merits and costs of the technology and what limitations might be appropriate.  While this type of secrecy may be appropriate in the national security context, it is entirely inappropriate in the context of law enforcement where citizens have the constitutional right to challenge the government’s evidence against them

We are not prejudging the outcome of the debate over the use of Stingray technology, but we categorically denounce the use of nondisclosure agreements that limit the ability of the public and of courts to debate the merits of the technology and to implement limits they may deem appropriate.

The overlap between intelligence and law enforcement also raises national security concerns.  If the technology is so important for national security that it must be kept secret, then its use for routine law enforcement was inappropriate.  Either the technology should have been kept secret as a vital national security tool or it should have been made public so that it could be used by law enforcement.  Instead, the Bureau tried to have it both ways and the foreseeable result was exactly what happened – the secrecy of the technology has been compromised, serious privacy questions have been raised, and countless criminal convictions are in jeopardy.  

Worse, local jurisdictions are now subject to increasing litigation over the secretive use of the cell-site simulators. The lawsuits will inevitably divert time and resources that could have been spent protecting and serving our communities to legal battles that could have been averted.  It could also put in jeopardy hard fought convictions.

We are aware that the FBI has, to some degree, retreated from its use of NDAs regarding cell-site simulators.  The Bureau even argued that the agreements do not prevent police from disclosing to courts that they used such equipment:

The NDA should not be construed to prevent a law enforcement officer from disclosing to the court or a prosecutor the fact that this technology was used in a particular case. Defendants have a legal right to challenge the use of electronic surveillance devices, and not disclosing their use could inappropriately and adversely affect a defendant’s right to challenge the use of the equipment.

This, however, is at odds with the explicit language of the NDA which precludes disclosure to the public in any manner “including but not limited to: in press releases, in court documents, during judicial hearings, or during other public forums or proceedings.”  The agreement, in fact, goes much further and states that the Milwaukee Police Department should seek FBI permission before responding to court ordered disclosures and should be prepared to dismiss cases at the FBI’s request if necessary to protect against disclosure.

We are also aware that the Department of Justice has issued new guidance on federal use of cell-site simulators.  It is not, however, clear that the FBI has rescinded the NDAs it signed with state and local police around the country. The FBI’s failure to do so subverts justice and subjects state and local law enforcement to needless litigation.

We appreciate a prompt response to the following questions: 

• Does the FBI consider state and local law enforcement to be bound by the NDAs related to the use of cell-site simulators?
• Has the FBI ever requested that a law enforcement agency dismiss a case to maintain the secrecy of law enforcement technology? 
• How many NDAs has the FBI signed with state and local law enforcement agencies regarding cell-site simulators?
• Are there other technologies for which the FBI demands state and local law enforcement sign an NDA?  
• Does the FBI continue to believe that NDAs are appropriate?
• Would the FBI ever condone perjury to Congress or judges to protect the existence of technology?

Please respond to the above questions by March 25, 2016.  


F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr.
Member of Congress

Sheila Jackson Lee
Member of Congress

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner sent the following letter to National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Administrator Charles F. Bolden regarding the response his agency sent regarding previous questions into NASA’s contracting practices, and alarming new information about the ongoing investigation:

Dear Administrator Bolden:

Thank you for responding to my November 18 letter regarding NASA’s Integrated Communications Service contract.  

In the response, your staff stated that NASA has conducted a thorough review of the issues that I raised, and if subcontractors have concerns then they should be addressed to SAIC.  The issues I raised are very serious and should not be dismissed as contracting disputes between vendors.  In fact, my office has received detailed information from a whistleblower about this investigation.  I have provided this information to Inspector General Paul Martin. 

The whistleblower raises serious concerns about illegal expenditures and unethical activity.  I would like you to address the following questions and document requests.  

     • Did NASA’s CSO Deputy Director direct project manager to single source a product called CISCO Identify Service Engine (CISCO ISE)?
          o If yes, why?
          o Did SAIC recommend and/or encourage the CSO in anyway regarding CISCO ISE?
     • Does NASA Policy Directive 7120.99 require NASA, or its contractors, to evaluate all market options, fully and fairly, for its procurements?
          o Are there waivers for Directive 7120.99? 
          o Was there a waiver provided relative to the procurement of CISCO ISE?
          o If yes, why?
          o Please provide me with a copy of any document or waiver that would authorize SAIC to disregard standard project management processes and procurement policies.
     • Are you aware of a $600,000 fee, or any fee, being paid to CISCO? 
          o If yes, why was this fee paid?
          o If yes, who paid the fee?
          o Was it paid from the EIB-NAC budget?
     • Please provide me with a copy of the EIB-NAC formulation authorization document. 
     • Is the SAIC manager aware of a $600,000 fee paid to CISCO?
          o Has he sent or received e-mails referencing $600,000?
          o If he corresponded via e-mail with a government official about this fee, please provide the relevant e-mails to me. 

Please respond to this letter and provide me with the requested documents by March 9, 2016.

Thank you for your prompt attention.


Chairman Emeritus
House Science, Space and Technology Committee
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner received the following response from NASA to his November 18th letter, seeking answers on the agency’s contracting practices: 

Dear Congressman Sensenbrenner:

Thank you for your letter dated November 18, 2015, regarding open competition under the NASA Integrated Communications Services (NICS) contract. In 2011, NASA competitively awarded the NICS contract to Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) to manage, maintain, and positively transform NASA’s communications services. NASA is currently in the midst of this ten-year contract with SAIC. NASA has conducted a thorough review of the issues raised in your letter, providing the following answers to the specific questions posed in the letter.

Your letter requests a copy of a June 17, 2015, presentation regarding the External Border Protection (EBPro) project. The purpose of the EBPro project is to improve the security of NASA’s networks and information technology (IT) infrastructure. SAIC has informed NASA that it continues to conduct product selections for several elements of the EBPro solution, as the NICS contract requires, and that two more key elements are still undergoing requirements validation and product testing. At this time, NASA is unable to release the requested presentation since it was created as part of a planned product selection process and contains competition sensitive information. Additionally, the presentation contains highly sensitive information affecting the Agency’s ability to provide a safe and secure environment for persons and property as well as NASA’s critical infrastructure information. 

Your letter also requests “An explanation of whether and why the NICS Approved Product List (APL) includes the products of only one manufacturer for its LAN wired and wireless network approved product line.” In fact, the NICS APL for Local Area Network (LAN) wireless contains two vendors, and the NICS APL for LAN wired contains one vendor. In order to efficiently meet the communications architecture that NASA has established in the NICS contract, SAIC has defined internal engineering processes such as the APL and standard design guides to achieve standardization. Through the APL process, SAIC defines system requirements to meet NASA’s target architecture and service requirements, then conducts market research and selects vendor products that best meet NASA’s needs. NASA is then able to concur in SAIC’s product recommendations. Under the NICS contract, SAIC determines when it is in NASA’s best interest to either conduct a competitive selection process for a product or proceed with only one vendor’s product on the APL (Supported by a business case). In reaching this determination, SAIC compares numerous products and considers many relevant factors, such as: product cost, cost of maintenance and operations, standardization efficiencies, financial viability of the manufacturer, independent product ratings (such as Gartner of Forrester), support staff training, supply chain management, and total cost of ownership to NASA. 

Your letter requests “An explanation of NASA’s role in the development and modification of the NICS APL.” Pursuant to the terms of the NICS contract, NASA’s Communications Services Office (CSO) Service Element Manager reviews all APL product recommendations, the rationale for selection, and provides concurrence. SAIC then briefs the NASA Communications Services Board on the APL product selection, rational and alignment with the target architecture. For NICS Fixed-Price reimbursement, letter, or time & materials subcontracts, SAIC is required to present its produce selection to the NASA Contracting Officer (CO), along with the business case analysis and rationale for product selection. The NASA CO, along with a CSO technical representative, reviews the product selection process and the rationale for the selected product, and provides SAIC with consent to proceed. The NASA CO also periodically reviews and provides input on subcontracting procurements under $500K.

Your letter also asks the following questions:

1. Does NASA support only one manufacturer being listed on the NICS LAN wired and wireless network APL?
2. Does NASA support the inclusion of multiple qualified manufactures on this list?

As stated above, the NICS APL for LAN wireless contains to vendors, and the NICS APL for LAN wired contains one vendor. While NASA supports the inclusion of multiple qualified manufactures on the APL through a competitive product selection process as provided under the terms of the NICS contract, the NICS contract does not require all APL products to be competed. In certain instances, and as allowed under the terms of the NICS contract, NASA has accepted SAIC’s recommendations for the continuation of one product on an APL when SAIC’s recommendations have been supported by a strong business case and rationale. Also, these APL items may be selected for a product competition in the future when the products reach end of life or meet other criteria. 

NASA has conducted a thorough review of the issues raised your letter and determined that nay issues that NICS subcontractors (or alternate vendors) have regarding product selections are a contractual matter between those entities and SAIC, the NICS prime contractor. NASA recommends that if any subcontractors have further concerns, they should be addressed directly to SAIC.

We appreciate your interest in this matter and trust this information will be useful. 


L. Seth Statler
Associate Administrator 
For Legislative and Intergovernmental Affairs
Through the first five years of his presidency, Barack Obama added 11,327 pages to the Code of Federal Regulations. No one knows how many criminal laws are contained in the compendium of legal rules and regulations promulgated by executive departments and administrative agencies. When I asked the Congressional Research Service to investigate, they said they didn’t have the resources to answer.

One thing is certain, though: No matter how many laws there are, Americans are subject to them all. As John Baker, a retired law professor at Louisiana State University told the Journal in 2011, “There is no one in the United States over the age of 18 who cannot be indicted for some federal crime.”

The result is a minefield for individuals and businesses at risk of violating obscure laws or rules. Increasingly, staying out of prison and avoiding fines and legal fees depends on the arbitrary whims of a bureaucrat.

For example, the Capo family in Virginia was fined $535 in 2011 after their young daughter Skylar rescued a woodpecker. The government deemed her effort to save the bird to be taking or transporting a protected species—an illegal act according to the Federal Migratory Bird Act. The fine was later rescinded, but not before it was assessed.

Lawrence Lewis, of Washington, D.C., also felt the weight of the federal criminal code when he was charged with a felony for accidentally violating the Clean Water Act in 2007 by diverting sewage pipes to a local storm drain, which, unknown to him, emptied into the Potomac River. Mr. Lewis pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor.

Then there was Abner Schoenwetter, who spent six years in federal prison after being found guilty in 2000 of packaging lobsters with plastic, rather than cardboard—a violation of an obscure Honduran regulation. Under the Lacey Act in the U.S., it is illegal for an American citizen to violate any fish or wildlife regulation of another nation.

In 2013-14, I was the chairman of a congressional task force on over-criminalization. One of the biggest takeaways from both Republicans and Democrats on the panel was the need for a default mens rea rule. Historically, a crime has encompassed two parts—a guilty act and some awareness that the act is wrong. This awareness of wrongdoing is mens rea, literally “guilty mind” in Latin. However, the federal government increasingly imposes criminal penalties for what are known as strict-liability crimes, laws that do not require any knowledge of wrongdoing by a person who breaks them.

Many Americans and small businesses are justifiably nervous that they can get into trouble despite making every effort to do the right thing. These are precisely the law-abiding citizens that I intended to help when I introduced the Criminal Code Improvement Act in late 2015. Under the bill, if a law or regulation doesn’t require demonstrated criminal intent and the conduct at issue is not conduct that a reasonable person would deem as wrong, then the government must prove that a defendant knew the act was illegal.

Congress and federal agencies can still create strict-liability crimes, but they must do so explicitly. For example, legislatures might decide that selling alcohol to minors is a strict-liability crime, so that the onus of ensuring compliance is on those who sell alcohol. Nothing in this proposed law will prevent them from doing so. A default mens rea rule will serve as a defense against arcane regulations prohibiting conduct that no reasonable person would think was wrong—such as the foreign environmental laws incorporated into the U.S. regulatory code by the Lacey Act.

Yet President Obama opposes the reform, threatening to stop progress on broader criminal-justice-reform efforts if Congress insists on the inclusion of a default mens rea rule. The administration has characterized the measure as a Republican attempt to protect corporations and white-collar criminals. Yet the White House hasn’t showed how mens rea reform would benefit corporate actors—who, unlike ordinary citizens, have legal departments that are more likely to know the law. The administration’s real motive is to protect the Justice Department, which wants to preserve its ability to secure easy convictions.

Many in Congress recognize that this isn’t a partisan issue—and maybe that is why the Criminal Code Improvement Act is earning support from prominent Democrats such as Reps. John Conyers Jr., Sheila Jackson Lee and Bobby Scott. For decades, the size of government has grown to create regulatory and criminal systems that can ensnare innocent people who have no intent to break any law. Now comes an opportunity to discourage such government overreach. It is vital that Congress not back down.

View this piece online here.