Wednesday, December 02, 2015

Domestic Spying Bill That Passed Yesterday Is So Secret That No One Knows What's In It-- Except Devin Nunes And Adam Schiff


Alas, not enough restrictions to make it worth voting for

Yesterday, the House voted overwhelmingly to give NSA the right to unconstitutionally spy on American citizens. The Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (H.R. 4127) passed 364-58, majorities in both parties voting to sell us down the river. Only 36 Democrats and 22 Republicans stood firm for the American people toward. Most of the bill is so classified that Members of Congress are constrained from discussing why they voted for it or against it and no one in the media has the final bill that was passed. Although Ted Lieu did tell us that "I voted against the Intelligence Authorization Act because it undermines the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Section 305 of the Act essentially exempts 'covert action' from being reviewed by the Oversight Board, even if the action was conducted against American citizens. The foundation of our country is the Constitution of the United States. And the Constitution protects American citizens against overreach by our government whether you are in Berlin, Connecticut or in Berlin, Germany. I cannot vote for an Act that degrades one of the few ways in which we the people exercise oversight over our intelligence agencies."

My day started yesterday with a Facebook posting from Justin Amash, one of the Republicans who put up the biggest fights against this Orwellian piece of legislation. In a Dear Colleague letter begged all the other Members of Congress to oppose it:
December 1, 2015
Stop Spying on U.S. Citizens: Vote “NO” on H.R. 4127

Dear Colleague:

This afternoon, the House will consider the Intelligence Authorization Act (IAA) for Fiscal Year 2016, which fails to address an expansive new authority recently granted to the intelligence community with virtually zero scrutiny or debate.

Last year, House and Senate leadership used the IAA to rush through a provision that permits the government to acquire, retain, and disseminate nonpublic telephone or electronic communications (i.e., content) of United States persons without the consent of the person or proper legal process. The section contemplates that those private communications of Americans, obtained without a court order, may be transferred to domestic law enforcement for criminal investigations.

The administration has historically conducted such surveillance under a claim of executive authority, such as E.O. 12333. However, Congress has never before approved using executive authority in that way to capture and use Americans’ private telephone records, electronic communications, or cloud data.

This provision received little media attention because of the unusual way in which it was adopted. During consideration of an earlier version of the FY 2016 IAA in June of this year, I offered an amendment in the Rules Committee to strike this provision from law. The committee ruled my amendment out of order without explanation. Here’s the timeline for how this provision came to be adopted: At 8:50 p.m. on December 9, 2014, the Senate passed a substitute amendment to H.R. 4681, the IAA for Fiscal Year 2015, which included a new provision (Section 309) that was not part of the original bill that moved through the House several months earlier. The Senate adopted the substitute amendment by unanimous consent and passed the bill by voice vote at 8:51 p.m. At 1:13 p.m. on December 10 (the next day), then-Chairman Mike Rogers attempted to suspend the rules and agree to the Senate amendment by voice vote—passing into law a provision virtually no one knew about and that had thus far received no real vote or been subject to any real debate. I rushed to the floor to demand the yeas and nays. Less than four hours later, the House voted on the measure with most members still unaware of this provision.

As noted above, I offered an amendment to the IAA in June to strike from law the words, "which shall permit the acquisition, retention, and dissemination of covered communications subject to the limitation in subparagraph (B)". The intelligence committees and intelligence community have claimed that this provision does nothing. If that’s the case, removing these words should be uncontroversial.

Congress and the American people deserve real substantive debate on these important issues, and we should reject reauthorization of surveillance authorities until our Fourth Amendment concerns are addressed. I urge you to join me in voting “no” on H.R. 4127, the IAA for Fiscal Year 2016, when it comes before the House this afternoon.

Justin Amash
Member of Congress
Although a handful of Republicans took Amash's Dear Colleague letter seriously and voted NO, it was primarily progressive Democrats like Alan Grayson (D-FL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Keith Ellison (D-MN), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Yvette Clarke (D-NY), Mike Honda (D-CA), Jim McGovern (D-MA)... who were the ones to try to stop this monstrosity. Many Democrats were bought off because the bill-- which failed in June-- "compromised" by dialing back, very slightly, the restrictions on Obama's ability to act to close down the Guantanamo gulag. Grayson wasn't. Right after the vote, he told us "We have to get over the foolish notion that it’s necessary to spy on every innocent person in order to stop the guilty ones. If you don’t believe me, then check out the Fourth Amendment. It’s all in there."

In all this talk about needing Big Brother tactics to combat terrorism, conservatives keep skipping the real domestic terrorism that is gripping America every day. Yes, there was another NRA/GOP-enabled murder spree today, this time at a center for the handicapped in San Bernardino-- at least 14 people dead, 17 wounded, one, two or three heavily armed terrorists, two of whom were shot by the police in a car chase and another one arrested. Oh, and an explosive devise was found in the building. If the conservatives were serious about protecting Americans from terrorism, why did they block a bill yesterday, once again, to prevent terrorists from buying guns?

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