Tags: Justin Amash

Congress is Attempting to Reauthorize Key Patriot Act Provisions by Sneaking it Into “USA Freedom Act”

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Yet with Section 215’s lifespan now stretching to a matter of weeks, supporters of broad surveillance powers have yet to put forth a bill for their preservation – evidence, opponents believe, that the votes for reauthorization do not exist, particularly not in the House of Representatives. 

More likely, according to a multiple Hill sources, is a different option under consideration: making the major NSA reform bill of the last Congress the point of departure for reauthorizing 215 in the current one. 

The bill would not abridge NSA collection of Americans’ international communications, nor prevent the NSA or the FBI from warrantlessly searching through its troves of them for Americans’ identifying information. Nor would it restrict a constellation of surveillance efforts authorized by a Reagan-era executive order. Even a recently disclosed bulk domestic phone records collection dragnet by the Drug Enforcement Agency would be untouched.

“We should be demanding more reforms than the intelligence agencies are gladly willing to offer us,” said David Segal of the activist group Demand Progress.

– From the Guardian article: NSA and FBI Fight to Retain Spy Powers as Surveillance Law Nears Expiration

June 1, 2015 is a very important day for American civil liberties and the Constitution. On that day, Section 215 of the Patriot Act, one of the most egregious pieces of legislation passed in U.S. history, will expire automatically without reauthorization from Congress. Naturally, this is causing a panic attack within the heart of the NSA, FBI and all the authoritarian lackey legislators in Washington D.C. With the chances of a clean reauthorization next to none, these crafty “representatives” and their puppeteers need to figure out a way to sneak it into another piece of legislation. What better way to do this than making it a part of something that ostensibly appears to be reining in surveillance powers. Enter the USA Freedom Act.

The USA Freedom Act is nothing new. A version of it passed the House last spring, before dying in the Senate. Rand Paul surprised many people by saying he would not support it because it didn’t go far enough. Additionally, one of its key cosponsors ultimately failed to support his own bill. I covered this in the post, Congress Guts Anti-NSA Spying Bill Beyond Recognition; Original Cosponsor Justin Amash Votes No. Here’s an excerpt:

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NSA Holds “Top Secret” Meeting to Stop Powerful Anti-Spying Amendment

In case you aren’t aware, there is a very significant amendment set for a vote in the House of Representatives tomorrow. The amendment was authored by libertarian-Republican of Michigan Justin Amash, and it is to be attached to the Defense Appropriations Bill (which provides funding for the NSA). It is a bipartisan amendment, co-sponsored by Michigan Democrat John Conyers, and it would remove funding for NSA programs using the Patriot Act for blanket collection of phone records and metadata from phone service providers. Here is a summary as it appears on the House of Representatives website:

Ends authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act. Bars the NSA and other agencies from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect records, including telephone call records, that pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation under Section 215.

The amendment’s supporters have even set up a web page dedicated to spreading the word and I strongly suggest you check it out at www.defundthensa.com 

While I know many people will tend to dismiss such amendments by saying “it doesn’t matter,” I would say that if it “doesn’t matter” then why did NSA chief Keith Alexander hold a secret meeting today to lobby against it? Because it matters. From the Huffington Post:

WASHINGTON — The National Security Agency called for a “top secret” meeting with members of the House on Tuesday to lobby against the first House amendment to challenge the agency’s authority to cull broad swaths of communications data, according to an invitation circulated in Congress.

NSA head Gen. Keith Alexander scheduled a last-minute, members-only briefing in response to the amendment, according to an invitation distributed to members of Congress this morning and forwarded to HuffPost.

The invitation warned members that they could not share what they learned with their constituents or others. “The briefing will be held at the Top Secret/SCI level and will be strictly Members-Only,” reads the invite.

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Night of the Long Knives: Fake Conservative John Boehner Purges the GOP

I have written about the two-party political sham for many years now.  At its root, the issue is that both the Democratic Party and the Republican Party are at their core the same on the big issues most affect these United States at this time.  These issues are:

1) The Federal Reserve scam and Wall Street theft.
2) Civil liberties and the destruction of the Constitution.
3) Our aggressive foreign policy and imperial wars abroad that help only the oligarchs and impoverish the masses.

Then they divide and conquer the masses using relatively irrelevant social issues like gay marriage, which are highly charged emotionally but will not affect your ability to put food on the table.

This past election should have been a wakeup call to the Republican establishment, but based on John Boehner’s recent actions, they have learned absolutely nothing.  The Republican Party is imploding from within since its leaders don’t actually stand for anything.  Here is how Mr. Boehner treats those within his party that do stand for something.

From the Huffington Post:
On Monday, the Republican Steering Committee, which is chaired by House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), voted to remove Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Tim Huelskamp (R-Kansas) from the House Budget Commtitee. Reps. David Schweikert (R-Ariz.) and Walter Jones (R-N.C.) lost their positions on the Financial Services Committee.

The four members are known for occasionally bucking leadership and voting against Boehner’s wishes. Amash, Huelskamp and Schweikert are popular with the conservative movement, while Jones has made a name for himself by speaking out against U.S. involvement in Afghanistan.

Reuters notes that removing Amash and Huelskamp from the Budget Committee “could make it easier for the panel to advance a deal with Democrats to cut fiscal deficits” — which is exactly what many conservative groups are afraid of.

Huelskamp unloaded on GOP leadership Tuesday at a Heritage Foundation event in Washington, saying, “We were not notified about what might occur but it confirms in my mind the deepest suspicions that most Americans have about Washington D.C: it’s petty, it’s vindictive, and if you have conservative principles you will be punished.”

“It’s a slap in the face to all young people who are thinking about being Republicans, want to be a part of this party, and are being told, ‘Well, if you disagree with leadership just a couple times we’re going to send you home … you don’t get to participate,'” he said.

Jones said he hasn’t yet spoken to Boehner. In fact, he only found out he lost his spot on the committee when his staff read about it on the Internet.

Talk about classless.  These guys apparently weren’t even notified of their demotions ahead of time and had to read about it in the press.  The message to the citizenry is clear.  We must move away from the two-party system and fast.  That way we can elect candidates that actually vote the will of the people that elected them, rather than pander to some slimy political godfather in Washington.

Full Huffington Post article here.

In Liberty,

My Thoughts on the Feinstein-Lee Amendment to the NDAA

I met with cadets this week and they asked me about, ‘what is the freedom we fight for?’ The freedom we fight for is the Bill of Rights, it is the Constitution. If we have careless disregard for the Constitution, what are we fighting for? 

I think this is a very serious debate and should not be made frivolous. This is an ancient right that we have defended for 800 years, for goodness sakes. To say that habeas is due process is absurd. It’s the beginning of due process. If you don’t have a right to trial by jury, you do not have due process. You do not have a Constitution. What are you fighting against and for if you throw the Constitution out? If you throw the Sixth Amendment out? It’s in the body of our Constitution. It’s in the Bill of Rights. It’s in every constitution in the United States. For goodness sakes, the trial by jury has been a long-standing and ancient and noble right. For goodness sakes, let’s not scrap it now.

– Senator Rand Paul

So last night, the United States Senate passed the Feinstein-Lee Amendment, AKA “the Prohibition on the Indefinite Detention of Citizens and Lawful Permanent Residents.”  The vote was overwhelming with a margin of victory of 67-29.  Ever since this passed there has been considerable debate as to whether it is a huge victory for Liberty against the horrific NDAA, or just a ruse that accomplishes nothing and in fact makes things even worse.  Overall, my conclusion is that this amendment is nothing to be cheered.

Here is actual text from the Amendment:

“An authorization to use military force, a declaration of war, or any similar authority shall not authorize the detention without charge or trial of a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the United States apprehended in the United States, unless an act of Congress expressly authorizes such detention.”

Come again?  Congress is not permitted to pass laws that are unconstitutional. This is very basic so I find it bizarre that this last sentence would be inserted in the Amendment if they were truly trying to achieve their stated purpose.  Clearly, it is also as a result of that last line that they were able to pass it so easily, with authoritarian thugs such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham voting for it.

There are other concerns as well, specifically the fact that it singles out citizens and lawful permanent residents rather than all persons.  This issue has been covered here at the ACLU and here at the Belligerent Act site.

All that said, there is one small silver lining to all of this.  Despite the horrific flaws mentioned above, I do think it is positive that this debate continues to rage and that Congress was forced to address it.  Had the public not been vigilant about the NDAA, it would have just passed without a peep, yet they are being forced to publicly debate this, which they’d certainly prefer not to do.

Keep fighting fellas.

In Liberty,