A coalition compromised of nearly 40 groups expressed support for ending the federal government’s bulk data collection program in a letter to President Barack Obama, Attorney General Eric Holder, and congressional leaders from both parties.
But the groups urged the administration and congressional leaders to go further than the limited duel proposals circulated last week by the White House and House Intelligence Committee by getting behind the USA FREEDOM Act (H.R. 3361).
“We the undersigned are writing to express support for ending the government’s bulk collection of data about individuals,” the coalition letter states. “We strongly urge swift markup and passage of the USA FREEDOM Act (H.R.3361), which would enact appropriate surveillance reforms without sacrificing national security.”
“This letter focuses on bulk collection,” the groups continue, “but overbroad NSA surveillance raises many more privacy and security issues that Congress and the Administration should address.”
The letter focuses on specific areas of reform. The coalition explains that bulk collection should be prohibited for all types of data, not just phone records. The White House proposal is limited to phone records, leaving loopholes for the federal government to collect other types of records and data.
“Legislation that focuses only on phone records,” the letter says, “may still allow for the bulk collection of, for example, Internet metadata, location information, financial records, library records, and numerous other records that may help ‘identify unknown relationships among individuals.’”
Citing input from conservative activists in the state, FreedomWorks PAC announced this afternoon that it had decided to withdraw its support of Shane Osborn and endorse Ben Sasse in the race for Nebraska open U.S. Senate seat.
“Both Osborn and Sasse are great people, and this was not a decision taken lightly,” said FreedomWorks PAC President Matt Kibbe in a statement. “The question at the heart of this decision is, who would caucus with the Freedom Caucus, and who would fall in line with the establishment?”
“At this point, it is clear that Shane Osborn formed allegiances with Mitch McConnell and the K Street lobbying class. For us, that progression away from the grassroots has tipped the balance. FreedomWorks PAC has a responsibility to endorse the most reliable candidate for liberty, and after following the evolution of this primary, it’s clear that Ben Sasse is the man for the job,” he added.
The organization endorsed Osborn in November, saying in a statement that “Shane’s dedication to constitutional principles and a return to fiscal sanity is beyond reproach.”
FreedomWorks had previously published commentary taking aim at Sasse on the healthcare issue, stating that he “support[ed] the basic principles of Obamacare” and and accused the candidate of backing “something akin to Romneycare” as a replacement.
Though he claims some credit on President Barack Obama’s proposal to end the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection program, Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) says that legislation isn’t needed to address the controversy.
Paul and FreedomWorks, a conservative grassroots group, filed a lawsuit last month challenging the NSA domestic surveillance program. The lawsuit argues that the program is an invasion of privacy because metadata collection can reveal a wealth of information about individuals. Researchers at Stanford University have backed up that suggestion.
“If the White House is serious, they don’t need to wait for legislation from Congress. They can act today to settle this matter. They should stop collecting phone data,” said Paul in a statement from RandPAC. “They should acknowledge they need a warrant to access such information in the future and they should accept that this data is protected by our Fourth Amendment rights.”
Paul and FreedomWorks outlined the terms of the settlement to the Justice Department through their lawyer, former Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli. The proposed settlement (below) includes an end to the bulk data collection program as well as the purging of all defendants’ metadata.
Though cases dealing with the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs are still a long way from going to the Supreme Court, Justice Antonin Scalia may have already tipped his hand on how he may vote, and it’s not good news for privacy advocates:
While suggesting that the high court will take up NSA surveillance, Scalia expressed his opinion that judges should not be deciding matters of national security.
“The Supreme Court doesn’t know diddly about the nature and extent of the threat,” Scalia said. Later on, he added, “It’s truly stupid that my court is going to be the last word on it.”
Still, he hinted he would rule that NSA surveillance does not violate the Constitution if and when the issue comes before the Supreme Court. Although one judge has ruled the spying violates the Fourth Amendment, Scalia may disagree based on his strict interpretation of the Constitution.
The comments came on Friday at an event sponsored by the Brooklyn School of Law. The discussion was led by Judge Andrew Napolitano, a legal commentator for Fox News and vocal opponent of the NSA’s domestic surveillance programs. Scalia made similar comments in September.
“A limited state with free economic systems is the soil where the liberty tree blossoms.” — Orrin Woodward
— The most transparent administration ever: Remember that promise? Yeah, about that. “More often than ever, the administration censored government files or outright denied access to them last year under the U.S. Freedom of Information Act, cited more legal exceptions it said justified withholding materials and refused a record number of times to turn over files quickly that might be especially newsworthy,” the Associated Press reports. “The government’s own figures from 99 federal agencies covering six years show that halfway through its second term, the administration has made few meaningful improvements in the way it releases records. In category after category - except for reducing numbers of old requests and a slight increase in how often it waived copying fees - the government’s efforts to be more open about its activities last year were their worst since President Barack Obama took office.”
“The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.” — Ayn Rand
— Oh, Fox News, STAAAAAHP: Another morning, another anti-Edward Snowden rant on Fox and Friends. “Edward Snowden is a terrible person, the worst in the world. Here’s a clip of Charles Krauthammer agreeing with me.” Yeah, there are some legit complaints about Snowden, like his seeking asylum from Russia, not exactly a bastion of liberty, but the guy tried to handle things the right way by taking his concerns about the NSA’s surveillance programs to his superiors. They didn’t listen, so he went to the media. In our minds, Snowden is more a hero than anything else for exposing programs that ignore the protections guaranteed in the Fourth Amendment. We also believe that he’s raised some other excellent points about the federal government wasting its resources. But neo-cons are gonna neo-con, and don’t you dare ever question them.
During a recent appearance on The Real Story with Gretchen Carlson, Karl Rove, a Fox News contributor and former advisor to President George W. Bush, tried to downplay the role some Tea Party groups could have in 2014 Republican primaries by connecting them to an insurgent campaigns that none of them ever backed.
Carlson asked Rove about the “dissention” between the Republican establishment and the Tea Party movement.
“I think you gotta distinguish between the Tea Party sentiment and the Tea Party groups. Look, groups like Senate Conservatives Fund and Heritage Action and FreedomWorks and Club for Growth don’t look like their going to have a particularly good year,” Rove told Carlson. “Our first test will be here in just over a week in Texas, where Senator John Cornyn is being opposed for reelection by Congressman Steve Stockman and Dwayne Stovall, both of whom are trying to capitalize on the Tea Party element.”
The White House has threatened to veto a measure that would temporarily delay proposed regulations under consideration by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) that would ostensibly legitimatize and institutionalize its targeting of conservative groups.
The Stop Targeting of Political Beliefs by the IRS Act (H.R. 3865), proposed last month by Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI), would halt the IRS from implementing the guidance for one year. The measure has the support of more than 55 conservative groups — including Americans for Tax Reform, Campaign for Liberty, Heritage Action, and the National Taxpayers Union.
Through a policy statement released on Monday, the White House relied its threat to veto the measure, laying the path for the IRS to do as it pleases.
“The Administration strongly opposes H.R. 3865, which would prohibit the Department of the Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) from clarifying the standards that organizations must satisfy to qualify for tax-exempt status,” the White House wrote in the statement. “Under current law, organizations qualify as tax-exempt organizations ‘operated exclusively for the promotion of social welfare’ if they are primarily engaged in promoting in some way the common good and general welfare of the people.”
Conservative organizations supporting Chris McDaniel, an insurgent conservative candidate running for U.S. Senate in Mississippi, seizing comments made by Sen. Thad Cochran (R-MS) in 2008 about then-candidate Barack Obama.
Cochran, who is being challenged in the primary by McDaniel, told a Mississippi paper that students he had spoken to before the 2008 election were “surprised” when he said he “really like[s] both the candidates very much” and “thought we would be well served however the election comes out.” The candidates Cochran referenced were Sen. John McCain (R-AZ) and then-Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL).
After a follow-up question by the paper’s editorial board about those “who think it will be a disaster for the country if Obama was elected,” Cochran focused on the 2008 Democratic Party’s nominee personal qualities, adding that he thought Obama would do “an excellent job.”
Today in Liberty: Keystone XL dealt a blow, Obamacare alternative endorsed by FreedomWorks, Thomas Sowell on Ted Cruz
“Many unions have contracts with employers that are based on a multiple of the prevailing minimum wage. If the minimum wage goes up, union salaries go up by a similar percentage.” — Neal Boortz
— Keystone XL hits a road block not named Obama: The Lancaster County District Court has shot down a 2012 state law that would have sped up the regulatory process to approve the Keystone XL pipeline. “TransCanada now must secure approval for the pipeline route from the state’s utility regulators — a step the 2012 Nebraska law sought to circumvent,” notes Zack Colman of the Washington Examiner. “Judge Stephanie Stacy said [Gov. Dave] Heineman’s move to approve the revised pipeline plan, as the law allowed, was unconstitutional because it wrested control of oil pipeline decisions from the state regulatory body, the Nebraska Public Service Commission. As such, Stacy ruled the law null and void.”