USA PATRIOT Act

7 Reasons Why Kevin McCarthy Shouldn’t Replace Eric Cantor

John Boehner, Kevin McCarthy, and Eric Cantor

Republicans were jockeying for position to move up on the ladder before Eric Cantor (R-VA), who lost his primary bid in a shocking upset on Tuesday night, announced that he would step down from his post as House Majority Leader at the end of July.

But with the leadership election scheduled for Thursday, June 19, several names are being kicked around to replace Cantor, among them is current Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-CA).

Yeah, no. That’s a terrible idea.

McCarthy has been in lock-step with Cantor, who endorsed him yesterday, and Speaker John Boehner (R-OH). He’s essentially the status quo. Nothing will change in the House if McCarthy becomes the next Majority Leader. It would be a politically tone deaf move for House Republicans to choose a carbon copy of Cantor to lead their conference.

And here are some reasons why.

House NSA reformer: “There’s more than enough votes to pass the FREEDOM Act”

A leading critic of the NSA bulk data collection program says the votes exist in the House of Representatives to pass the USA FREEDOM Act, a sweeping measure that would end bulk data collection and protect Americans’ privacy rights.

Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) told The Hill last week that he would offer an amendment to address the NSA bulk meta collection programs if the White House and House Intelligence Committee proposal fall short. Now that he’s had time to review them, the Michigan Republican believes the dueling measures don’t stop bulk data collection at all.

“The proposals from the White House and the Intelligence Committee don’t really make much of a difference. They don’t actually stop bulk collection,” Amash said in an interview on Wednesday. “They transfer where the data is held, but the government can still access it in basically the same way.”

Amash supports the USA FREEDOM Act, introduced in October by Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI). This measure would not only end the bulk data collection program, it would also close loopholes the NSA could use to access Americans’ personal records.

The USA FREEDOM Act has broad, bipartisan support — a rarity in Washington these days — but it’s currently stalled in the House Judiciary Committee, though Amash notes that it has “a lot of support” from its members.

PATRIOT Act author introduces measure to end NSA bulk data collection

James Sensenbrenner

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the author and primary sponsor of the USA PATRIOT Act, announced on Wednesday that he would introduce legislation, the USA FREEDOM Act, to end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone and Internet metadata.

“My view of the PATRIOT Act hasn’t changed,” said Sensenbrenner at a Cato Institute conference on NSA surveillance.

“What has changed is what two administrations, Bush 43 and the Obama Administration, have done after I left office as chairman of the [House] Judiciary Committee and did not have my tart oversight pen to send oversight letters that usually were cosigned by Congressman [John] Conyers, then-the ranking member, to the Justice Department, and specifically acting like a crabby, old professors when they were non-responsive in their answers,” he explained.

Sensenbrenner has become a fierce critic of the NSA’s surveillance techniques, referring to them as “excessive and un-American” in a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder. The NSA has justified the bulk data collection through a controversial provision of the PATRIOT Act. He contends that the NSA is defying congressional intent as the provision, Section 215, allows intelligence agencies to seize records related to an actual investigation into terrorist activity.

Lawmakers targeting the NSA’s unconstitutional spying have a big card to play if Obama and Congress don’t get behind reform

Privacy advocates are closely watching discussions in the Senate over the USA FREEDOM Act, a measure originally intended to end the NSA’s unconstitutional bulk data collection program and protect Americans’ civil liberties. They’re hoping that a strengthened version of the bill will pass the Senate Judiciary Committee, and they may get their wish:

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), the lead Senate sponsor of the original USA Freedom Act, has repeatedly expressed disappointment in the House-passed version of the bill.

He has pledged to “fight for a stronger USA FREEDOM Act” that bans bulk data collection.

Other pro-reform committee members have joined Leahy’s calls.

Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) said he is “very hopeful” that Leahy will move ahead with his version of the USA Freedom Act.
[…]
Harley Geiger, senior counsel at the Center for Democracy and Technology, said these calls for stronger reforms from Senate Judiciary Committee members, including the Chairman, are “very encouraging.”

Geiger said he is “optimistic that they will make improvements to [the House-passed USA Freedom Act], but the precise nature of improvements is still being discussed.”

Senate committee passes measure legalizing NSA bulk data collection

Sens. Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), both supporters of the NSA’s privacy invasive surveillance program, sent out a press release yesterday touting the Senate Intelligence Committee’s passage of the FISA Improvements Act and claiming the measure “increases privacy protections and public transparency of the National Security Agency call-records program.”

Part of the PATRIOT Act ruled to be unconstitutional

Yesterday, a federal judge found two parts of the USA PATRIOT Act, a law that was passed in the wake of 9/11, to be an unconstitutional infringement on the Bill of Rights, specifically the Fourth Amendment:

Two provisions of the USA Patriot Act are unconstitutional because they allow search warrants to be issued without a showing of probable cause, a federal judge ruled Wednesday.

U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken ruled that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, as amended by the Patriot Act, “now permits the executive branch of government to conduct surveillance and searches of American citizens without satisfying the probable cause requirements of the Fourth Amendment.”

Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield sought the ruling in a lawsuit against the federal government after he was mistakenly linked by the FBI to the Madrid train bombings that killed 191 people in 2004.

The federal government apologized and settled part of the lawsuit for $2 million after admitting a fingerprint was misread. But as part of the settlement, Mayfield retained the right to challenge parts of the Patriot Act, which greatly expanded the authority of law enforcers to investigate suspected acts of terrorism.

Mayfield claimed that secret searches of his house and office under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act violated the Fourth Amendment’s guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure. Aiken agreed with Mayfield, repeatedly criticizing the government.

“For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law — with unparalleled success. A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised,” she wrote.

House Republicans quietly push renewal of PATRIOT Act

House Republicans, who campaigned in the mid-terms on a return to constitutional principles, are expected this week to vote on extension of the USA PATRIOT Act, a law that undermines the Bill of Rights and has led to abuse of civil liberties as federal authorities routinely violated provisions of the legislation:

On Friday, the House of Representatives scheduled a vote next week on legislation that would extend the provisions of the so-called Patriot Act, without modification, until Dec. 8, instead of letting them expire at the end of this month. The move is designed to give the House Judiciary Committee, now under Republican management, time to hold hearings on the law, according to an aide to the committee’s new chairman, Representative Lamar Smith of Texas.

The expiring provisions allow investigators to get “roving wiretap” court orders for targets who switch phone numbers or providers; to seize “any tangible things” deemed relevant to an investigation, like a business’s customer records; and to get wiretap orders against terrorism suspects who are not connected to any foreign terrorist group or government.

Because Congress will be out the last week of February, the House’s quick action on its bill makes it more likely that the Senate will acquiesce. The Senate’s own efforts to deal with the expiring provisions have gotten bogged down with competing proposals in the Judiciary Committee, and senators will also be out of town next week.

Colbert takes on Obama on PATRIOT Act

Stephen Colbert takes on the fearmongering on the USA PATRIOT Act and President Barack Obama’s flip-flopping on the continuing deconstruction of the Fourth Amendment:


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