It has been reported that the National Security Agency (NSA) has long been aware of the Heartbleed bug and exploited it to obtain information.
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner: “The NSA’s purpose is to protect Americans. But if media reports are accurate, rather than fixing the Heartbleed bug, the NSA exploited it to gather information, leaving Americans vulnerable to cyber-attacks. Once again, the NSA proved blind to the interests of every day Americans in its single-minded pursuit of information. This calls into serious question what the intelligence community does behind its dark cloud of secrecy and is yet another example of how our privacy and data security have been cast aside in the name of national security.”
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) sent the following letter to Attorney General Eric Holder requesting a response to a December 19, 2013 letter regarding Director of National Intelligence James Clapper’s false testimony.
Dear Attorney General Holder,
On December 19 of last year, I wrote, along with six of my colleagues, to request that you investigate Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for his “erroneous” testimony before the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence last year. Nearly three-and-a-half months later, we have not received a response or an update on the status of your investigation.
On March 12, 2013, Senator Ron Wyden asked Director Clapper, “Does the N.S.A. collect any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans?” Director Clapper answered “No, Sir.” Wyden pressed, “It does not?” Clapper replied, “There are cases where they could inadvertently perhaps collect, but not wittingly.”
Now declassified documents reveal that Director Clapper’s testimony was false, and further, that he knew it was false when it was offered. Congress is currently considering proposals regarding intelligence reform. In considering these proposals, we need assurances that we can adequately conduct oversight following new legislation. Congressional oversight, however, depends on truthful testimony. Intelligence officials cannot be permitted to lie with impunity.
I respectfully request an update as soon as possible.
Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) gives intelligence gathering agencies the ability to collect the communications of foreign persons without a warrant. The intelligence community has used back door searches to obtain Americans’ private communications. Section 301 of the USA FREEDOM Act would close this loophole.
Section 301 of the USA FREEDOM Act: Clarification on prohibition on searching of collections of communications to conduct warrantless searches for the communications of United States persons. From Section-by-Section Analysis
Under Section 702 of FISA, which was enacted as part of the FISA Amendments Act (FAA), the government can wiretap foreigners outside the United States without a court order. This section closes NSA’s “back door” access to Americans’ communications by requiring a court order under FISA before the government can search for the communications of Americans in data collected without individualized warrants under Section 702. It contains an emergency exception like those found elsewhere in FISA.
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner: “Section 215 of the Patriot Act has been misinterpreted to justify bulk collection. Similarly, we now know Section 702 of FISA has been improperly used to obtain the content of Americans’ private communications without a warrant, which is unconstitutional under the Fourth Amendment and a blatant violation of Americans’ civil liberties.
“The USA FREEDOM Act ends bulk collection, closes the loophole being exploited to access the communications of Americans and strikes the proper balance between privacy and security—the Intelligence Committee’s FISA Transparency and Modernization Act does not.”
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced the USA FREEDOM Act to restore trust in the intelligence community and ensure Americans’ civil liberties are protected, while maintaining the necessary tools to protect our national security. Tomorrow, members of the House Intelligence Committee plan to introduce the End Bulk Collection Act.
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner: “Congress must pass a straightforward bill to address NSA overreach. The End Bulk Collection Act is a convoluted bill that accepts the administration’s deliberate misinterpretation of the law. It limits, but does not end, bulk collection. Provisions included in the draft fall well short of the safeguards in the USA FREEDOM Act and do not strike the proper balance between privacy and security. The End Bulk Collection Act will not have my support.”
I bristle when people on the right or left suggest there is a conflict between my support for the Voting Rights Act and voter ID laws. The former is possibly the most important civil rights legislation ever passed, and the latter is a useful tool to prevent fraud.
The belief that no voter should be disenfranchised and every legal vote should be tallied is nonpartisan. And now, as we approach this year's elections, we must ensure the proper protections are in place.
As elected officials, our legitimacy depends on free and fair elections. Support for voting rights and voter identification are consistent goals. Only in hyper-partisan Washington can we lose sight of this.
The VRA has two primary mechanisms to combat voter discrimination. Section 2 allows private citizens or the Department of Justice to bring lawsuits to combat discrimination. It is a powerful weapon, but Section 2 lawsuits are costly, difficult to prove, and there is often no remedy for a flawed election.
In the 1950s and 60s, the federal government continuously banned discriminatory practices like poll taxes and literary tests only to see jurisdictions invent new ways to discriminate, some of which were difficult if not impossible to detect.
Section 5 of the VRA was a groundbreaking response to persistent discrimination. It established a preclearance system that required states with documented histories of discrimination to "pre-clear" changes to voting laws. DOJ had 60 days to object before a change took effect. This extraordinary remedy balanced the right of states to administer elections with the right of the public to ensure they were free of racial discrimination.
In Shelby County v. Holder, the Supreme Court upheld both Sections 2 and 5 of the VRA, but found the Act's test to determine which states were subject to coverage was unconstitutional because it relied on historical data. Thus, the preclearance mechanism survived, but the Court all but eliminated its applicability.
In response to the Court's decision, Senator Leahy and I introduced the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 to modernize the VRA. The amendment establishes a rolling, nationwide formula. States will only be subject to preclearance if they have committed five voting violations in the last fifteen years. And no jurisdiction can be covered more than 10 years after its most recent violation. This new formula is nationwide and restores the balance between states' and voters' rights.
Furthermore, this provision of the act will only apply when it proves needed. In her dissent, Justice Ginsburg accused the Court's majority of throwing away their umbrella in the middle of a rainstorm because they weren't getting wet. This bill ensures we only open the umbrella after feeling raindrops.
There is considerable evidence bolstering the need for the act. During the most recent reauthorization in 2006, Congress held over 20 hearingsand amassed a record of 15,000 pages documenting widespread evidence of discrimination.
More recently, in 2008, Alaska sought to eliminate precincts in several Native villages. The changes would have resulted in Native voters having to travel by air or boat to the reach the nearest precinct. DOJ requested more information, and Alaska withdrew the submission.
In 2011 in the City of Clinton, Mississippi, officials drew district lines in a way to ensure that the African American community would not have the power to elect a candidate of their choice. Since it was prior to the Court's decision, DOJ was able to use Section 5 to block the change.
Similarly, people only argue that voter fraud isn't a problem when they don't look for it. Several cases of voter fraud were reported in my home state of Wisconsin in the 2012 elections. One case involved a man who recently pleaded guilty to voting in West Milwaukee six times between 2010 and 2012, though he hasn't lived there since 2008, and deliberately voted twice in the 2012 presidential election.
In 2013, a Cincinnati poll worker told a local television station that she also voted twice in the 2012 presidential election. She was later charged with voting illegally in three elections, including voting for a relative who was in a coma, and pled no contest to four counts.
Americans are required to provide proper photo identification to fly, buy alcohol, cigarettes or tickets to R-rated movies. ID is required to drive a car. For those who can't afford a photo ID, states should and often do provide them for free. Responsible voter ID laws protect the integrity of the ballot box without discriminating against minority voters.
The amended VRA has modest voter ID carve-outs recognizing the compatibility of stopping both discrimination and fraud. It also includes new nationwide transparency provisions to help identify potentially discriminatory voting changes, as well as a provision to enhance the ability of federal courts to order a preclearance remedy when appropriate.
Proponents face an uphill battle, but the Voting Rights Amendment Act is worth the fight. The right to vote should be unassailable. This is not a partisan principle, but an American one.
House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) announced his support for ending bulk collection of Americans’ phone data. Following Congressman Ruppersberger’s announcement, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) sent him a letter encouraging him to cosponsor the Leahy-Sensenbrenner USA FREEDOM Act, which would end bulk collection.
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner: “Since last summer, calls to rein in the NSA have become deafening. In October, Senator Leahy and I introduced the USA FREEDOM Act to restore trust in the intelligence community and ensure Americans’ civil liberties are protected, while maintaining the necessary tools to protect our national security. Bulk collection has never been authorized by Congress and ongoing activities by the executive branch are a blatant misapplication of the law.
“Ranking member Ruppersberger has joined the PCLOB, President Obama’s handpicked review panel, the American people and the more than 160 cosponsors of the USA FREEDOM Act in condemning bulk collection of Americans’ phone data. I urge him to cosponsor the USA FREEDOM Act. It strikes the proper balance between security and privacy, and I am confident it has the votes to pass.”
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) sent the following letter to Deputy Attorney General James Cole requesting a response to a February 11 letter regarding spying on Members of Congress.
Dear Deputy Attorney General Cole:
On February 11, I sent a letter, cosigned by my colleagues, Congressmen Darrell Issa and Jerrold Nadler, asking you to clarify statements you made before the House Judiciary Committee. At the House Judiciary Committee hearing on February 4, Congressman Issa asked whether the National Security Agency (NSA) collected information on call records from Congressional offices. You responded, “We probably do, Mr. Congressman, but we’re not allowed to look at any of those, however, unless we have reasonable, articulable suspicion that those numbers are related to a known terrorist threat.”
Our letter identified a situation when the NSA would collect information on call records from Congressional offices (and Americans more generally) even without any reasonable articulable suspicion at all. It has been over a month and my colleagues and I have not received a response. This issue is even more pressing given recent statements from Senate Intelligence Chairman Dianne Feinstein.
In remarks on the Senate floor, Senator Feinstein accused the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) of ¬secretly searching computers and removing documents from computers used by committee staff members. According to press reports, the CIA’s acting general counsel also filed a criminal report with the Department of Justice concerning the committee staff’s actions.
Even in the context of recent revelations, Senator Feinstein’s allegations are shocking. As you know, the CIA is legally barred from any domestic searches or surveillance. Additionally, tapping into computers used by members of Congress and attempts to use the Justice Department to intimidate Congressional staff is a gross violation of the Constitutional principles of separation of powers. It paints an almost-Nixonian picture of an Administration that believes it can act with impunity behind a veil of secrecy.
I am therefore writing to expedite your response to our February 11 letter. I remind you that the inquiry in the letter was broader than Chairman Issa’s original inquiry and requested disclosure of all of the ways in which the government conducts, or may possibly conduct surveillance on Members of Congress. This would include the CIA’s invasion of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s computers as well as any unknown instances of monitoring, spying on, or otherwise conducting surveillance over Members of Congress and their staff. I request a response no later than March 28, 2014.