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The House Judiciary Committee today passed H.R. 3361, the USA FREEDOM Act, which Crime Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced last October. A substitute amendment was offered by Congressman Sensenbrenner on behalf of House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Ranking Member John Conyers (D-Mich.), Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Bobby Scott (D-Va.), Congressmen Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) and Randy Forbes (R-Va.), which was accepted by the Committee.

Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Today, the Judiciary Committee came together to address one of the most pressing issues facing our nation. The Committee voted unanimously to rein in the NSA, end bulk collection and ensure Americans’ civil liberties are protected, while keeping intact the necessary tools to protect our national security. I thank my colleagues, privacy groups, legal experts, tech companies, allied governments and the American people for their input, and urge the House and Senate to promptly pass the USA FREEDOM Act.”

View Opening Statement, Manager’s Amendment: here
The separation of powers—reinforced through checks and balances—is a bedrock principle of our political system. It limits overreach by the executive branch and prevents the over-centralization of power. The primary mechanism of the legislative branch to thwart executive branch overreach is congressional oversight.

Effective oversight, however, requires truthful testimony from executive branch officials. On March 12, 2013, during a Senate Select Committee on Intelligence panel, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) asked Director of National Intelligence James 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.”

Declassified documents reveal that Director Clapper’s testimony was false, and further, that he knew it was false when offering it. Congress is currently considering proposals regarding intelligence gathering reform. In considering these proposals, we need assurances that Congress can adequately conduct oversight following new legislation.

Once again, the Administration that promised to be the most transparent in history has fallen short. It has hidden monumental Fourth Amendment abuses behind the veil of national security. During a House Judiciary Committee hearing on April 8, 2014, I questioned Attorney General Eric Holder about Clapper’s untruthful testimony:


 

Although the Attorney General was evasive, I am committed to pursuing the truth. If Congressional oversight depends on truthful testimony, government officials cannot be permitted to lie with impunity.



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.”

Protect our right to vote

March 20, 2014


?By Jim Sensenbrenner

?Published on March 20, 2014

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.

View online: USA TODAY