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Posts tagged ‘Jim Sensenbrenner’

Lawmakers Press Holder to Explain Prosecution of Reddit’s Swartz.

Lawmakers are demanding answers from Attorney General Eric Holder over the Justice Department’s conduct toward late Internet activist Aaron Swartz, who committed suicide one year ago, after he was slammed with federal charges over breaking into a Massachusetts Institute of Technology computer network.

A bipartisan group of eight lawmakers from the House and Senate wrote to Holder on Friday, one day before the first anniversary of Swartz’ suicide, calling him a “brilliant technologist and activist” and demanding that Holder explain how the Justice Department’s conduct toward the 26-year-old was “appropriate,” reports The Hill.

Lawmakers said they asked for details a year ago over the department’s treatment, but got no answers, “not even the sentencing memoranda that surely were prepared in a case such as this.”

Swartz’s family maintain he killed himself because of the overzealous federal prosecutors in his case. He was facing up to 35 years in prison and up to $1 million in fines after he was charged with wire and computer fraud, among other charges, for breaking into the MIT servers and downloading nearly 5 million documents from the JSTOR academic service.

The eight lawmakers, Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas; Ron Wyden, D-Ore.; Jeff Flake, R-Ariz.; and Reps. Darrell Issa, R-Calif.; James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis.; Alan Grayson, D-Fla.; Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif.; and Jared Polis, D-Colo., also said they “respectfully disagree” with Holder’s claims that the case represented “a good use of prosecutorial discretion.”

Beyond his legal troubles, Swartz was considered a computer genius who as a teenager helped create the publishing program RSS, which allows people to subscribe to website, blog, and news site updates. Swartz co-founded the social news website Reddit, which was later sold to Conde Nast, as well as the political action group Demand Progress, which campaigns against Internet censorship.

Meanwhile, web visionaries Saturday remembered Swartz and his legacy, reports

Story continues below video.

“I think Aaron was trying to make the world work – he was trying to fix it,” World Wide Web founder Tim Berners-Lee said. “So he was a bit ahead of his time.”

And Creative Commons founder Lawrence Lessig, who noted “he was just doing what he thought was right to produce a world that was better.”

Director Brian Knappenberger, whose documentary “The Internet’s Own Boy: The Story of Aaron Swartz” will debut at the Sundance Film Festival later this month, drew parallels between Swartz and National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden.

“Now we are all submerged in a massively networked world where every important part of our lives has an online component to it,” Knappenberger said. “Geeks and hackers already knew this but, thanks to Edward Snowden, now everyone realizes it.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

Obama Under Pressure to Move Soon on NSA Reform.

Image: Obama Under Pressure to Move Soon on NSA Reform

Lawmakers expect President Barack Obama to announce changes to the National Security Agency’s metadata surveillance program before he makes his State of the Union address on Jan. 28.

The president met in private session with 16 members of the House and Senate Thursday,reports The Hill, and while he did not endorse any specific reforms, he said the NSA’s surveillance programs will have to undergo reform, said lawmakers after the meeting.

“Close to half the members of Congress” think reforms and reductions should be made to Section 215 of the Patriot Act, which allows the NSA to collect bulk data on phone calls inside the United States, said Colorado Democratic Sen. Mark Udall.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama is still considering options, reports CBS News.

“He’s not yet finished with that and he is still soliciting input, which he did today, sort of reviewing the scope of the matter and some of the ideas that were presented,” Carney said.

Some parts of the program will still require reviews beyond the next few weeks, even if Obama makes an announcement, he added.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said after the meeting that he “wouldn’t be surprised a bit” if Obama makes an announcement next week.

“Many of us made clear our belief that the bulk collection of Americans’ phone calls must end,” Leahy said in a press statement. “This is consistent with the recommendations made by the President’s Review Group.”

Leahy acknowledged there are differences of opinion among lawmakers, “but at least the president knows where we stand.”

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., has said she will kill legislation sponsored by Leahy and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., to end the phone records collections.

The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology last month proposed ending the government’s storage of metadata. After the meeting, Feinstein bashed that plan, saying it could cost phone carriers as much as $60 million a year to store records.

But lawmakers said Obama is more likely to take other actions, including adding a public advocate on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

Other senators at Thursday’s meeting included Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the ranking GOP member on the intelligence panel; Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss.; Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.; and Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. However, Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., a prominent NSA critic, was not invited.

House members present were House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers , R-Mich.; House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.; Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich.; Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, R-N.J.; Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind.; Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif.; and Sensenbrenner.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Rand Paul: Intel Chief Clapper Bigger Threat Than Snowden.

National Intelligence Director James Clapper is a bigger threat to U.S. security than National Security Agency leaker Edward Snowden, Sen. Rand Paul says.

Paul, R-Ky., told CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” on Wednesday that Clapper’s “lying” to Congress was a criminal act for which he should be prosecuted.

“Otherwise, you’re just encouraging people to lie to us,” he said.

Paul was referring to Clapper’s testimony in March to a Senate committee in which he said the NSA was not collecting any type of data on “millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”

Editor’s Note: Seniors Scoop Up Unclaimed $20,500 Checks? (See if You qualify) 

NSA contract employee Snowden’s leaks of classified documents just a few months later proved Clapper’s words to be untrue.

Paul told CNN there have to be rules about leaks, and Snowden broke the law in taking the classified data. Still, he said, many consider Snowden a legitimate whistle-blower. 

Clapper’s false testimony, on the other hand, has damaged the credibility of the intelligence community, Paul said. He said it was perjury and punishable by time in jail.

“I think the law is the law, and they both broke the law, and that one shouldn’t get off scot-free,” Paul said.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Rep. Sensenbrenner: Clapper Must Be Prosecuted for Lying to Congress.

Image: Rep. Sensenbrenner: Clapper Must Be Prosecuted for Lying to Congress

By Drew MacKenzie

Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr., the architect of the Patriot Act, has urged authorities to prosecute Director of National Intelligence James Clapper for lying to Congress.

The Wisconsin Republican told The Hill that the Justice Department should bring charges against Clapper for his false testimony during a Senate Intelligence Committee hearing in March.

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“Lying to Congress is a federal offense, and Clapper ought to be fired and prosecuted for it,” he said. “The only way laws are effective is if they’re enforced. If it’s a criminal offense — and I believe Mr. Clapper has committed a criminal offense — then the Justice Department ought to do its job.”

The call for Clapper’s prosecution came as President Barack Obama revealed in an interview on MSNBC’s “Hardball With Chris Matthews” that he plans to introduce curbs on the National Security Agency to guard against unwarranted snooping in Americans’ private affairs.

During the intelligence hearing, Clapper was asked by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., whether the NSA collects data on millions of Americans. Clapper replied that NSA does “not wittingly” gather information from Americans in general.

But thousands of documents leaked by NSA contractor Edward Snowden have proved that the agency collects bulk records of phone calls and Internet data on virtually every American.

Clapper has since claimed that he was attempting to give the “least untruthful” answer that would not disclose classified information about the agency’s work. He has since apologized to Dianne Feinstein, chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, for his “clearly erroneous” statement to Congress.

Sensenbrenner, also demanded that Obama should fire Clapper, a retired Air Force lieutenant general, and NSA Director Keith Alexander over the spying revelations and replace them with civilians.

“The successor of both Clapper and Alexander ought to be civilians,” he said. “I think that civilians would be able to have a better balance in seeing the distinction between security and civil liberties.”

Alexander, four-star Army general, is planning to retire in the spring, according to The Hill.

In October, Sensenbrenner said he planned to introduce legislation that would scale back some of the counterterrorism laws he once championed while indicating that the NSA had taken advantage of the intent of the 2011 Patriot Act.

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The move could put an end to the NSA’s massive bulk collection of Internet and telephone data that Sensenbrenner said made him, “appalled and angry.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Boehner Facing Push to Curb NSA Surveillance.

House Speaker John Boehner may be forced into allowing a vote on standalone legislation to curb the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs, even though he has defended the agency’s methods.

A growing number of lawmakers favor a bill to end the NSA’s telephone records collections on nearly all calls made in the United Statesreports The Hill.  But while Boehner says there are already many safeguards to protect privacy, he may have no choice but to allow a vote on legislation to curb the NSA, says one Democratic aide.

The insider told the Hill that if Boehner and other lawmakers block a vote on the standalone NSA reform legislation, House members who favor it will demand NSA-related amendments be added to vital legislation, such as defense bills.

“They’re stuck,” the aide said. “They would deal with this in the way they deal with a lot of things — by just not moving the legislation. Except how are they going to get other important pieces of legislation that they want to move unless they move this first?”

GOP leaders did allow a vote in July on an amendment from Republican Rep. Justin Amash of Michigan to end the NSA’s phone data program.

The amendment met with party leader opposition and White House lobbying, but failed to pass by only seven votes. Boehner, who usually doesn’t vote, cast a ballot against the Amash amendment, saying that there are already ample safeguards to protect privacy, and the NSA programs have “worked to protect the American people.”

Some of those who voted against the Amash amendment now back legislation to limit the NSA. For example, California Republican Rep. Rep. Darrell Issa, who chairs the House Oversight Committee voted against the Amash amendment but now co-sponsors the USA Freedom Act, which is the primary bill to limit the NSA’s power.

The bill was written by Wisconsin Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, who had helped create the Patriot Act that the NSA uses when seeking approval for data collection. The Sensenbrenner bill has at least 102 co-sponsors — 51 Republicans and 51 Democrats.

Sensenbrenner said the Patriot Act kept Americans safe but “the balance between security and privacy was lost.”

His bill seeks to end bulk collection of telephone data and tighten NSA oversight.

However, the NSA has strong defenders in the house, including Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who says the phone data program is a key tool in the fight against terrorism.

A battle over the NSA is also looming in the Senate, where Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., is pushing legislation to protect its power. Meanwhile, Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., is pushing for a Senate version of the USA Freedom Act.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.
By Sandy Fitzgerald

Sensenbrenner’s ‘Freedom Act’ Aims to Limit Surveillance Program.

Image: Sensenbrenner's 'Freedom Act' Aims to Limit Surveillance Program

By Lisa Furgison

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, one of the original authors of the Patriot Act, is drafting legislation to rein in the surveillance power of U.S. intelligence agencies, a move that could put an end to the NSA’s massive bulk collection of Internet and telephone data.

The Wisconsin Republican is teaming up with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy and House Judiciary Committee ranking Democrat John Conyers to push what he calls the USA Freedom Act, according to U.S. News & World Report. 

“We must strike the proper balance between national security and privacy,” Sensenbrenner told U.S. News, referring to the recent leaks by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that revealed the existence of an agency program that scoops up the Internet and phone information of nearly all Americans, regardless of whether they are the targets of national security or terrorism investigations.

Since the Snowden disclosures earlier this year, President Barack Obama has promised more oversight of the surveillance program, but Sensenbrenner says much more needs to be done, which is why he and a group of lawmakers “who are passionate about civil liberties” have created the new bill.

According to The Guardian newspaper, the USA Freedom Act would end the mass collection of information by forcing agencies to prove to a judge that there is a reason to monitor a person’s communications.

The British newspaper, which has seen the draft of the legislation, reported Thursday that the NSA and other intelligence agencies would have to show “the target” of the data collection effort “was thought to be an agent of a foreign power, was engaged in activity that was the subject of an investigation, or was an individual in contact with an agent of a foreign power.”

Sensenbrenner also wants to introduce more transparency into the process. Under his bill, any time there is a significant interpretation of the law by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the attorney general must disclose the decision to the public. However, the names of targets and other important pieces of information connected to the surveillance request would still remain classified.

The bill would also put an advocate in place to represent the public’s privacy concerns in court.

“This comprehensive legislation will end the bulk collection of Americans’ communications records by adopting a uniform standard for intelligence gathering under Section 215 of the Patriot Act,” Sensenbrenner said, US News reported. “It ends the NSA’s ability to collect what they call ‘a metadata program.'”

Despite having the support from key Democrats on Congress’ Judiciary committees, the legislation is expected to encounter heavy opposition from both sides of the aisle, as well as the White House. Many lawmakers and the president have defended the NSA program as a necessary tool to fight terrorism, even though they have called for more transparency in how the program is carried out.

If the bill does manage to pass both chambers of Congress and Obama vetoes it, Sensenbrenner said the collection of private information from Americans would then “fall directly on the president’s shoulders.”

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Sensenbrenner: Congress Will Not Renew NSA Surveillance Program.

Image: Sensenbrenner: Congress Will Not Renew NSA Surveillance Program

By Sandy Fitzgerald

The Patriot Act‘s chief author said that the House will never renew provisions that allow the National Security Agency to collect Americans‘ phone records, and he expects the program will end sometime next year.

Wisconsin Republican Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. on Wednesday told The Washington Times that Congress had tried to limit the act’s reach when it renewed provisions under a section of the act that allows data to be gathered without obtaining a warrant.

Sensenbrenner said Congress added in the word “relevant,” but the intelligence community has expanded its efforts to collect information even though Congress had wanted the programs limited.

The pertinent section expires at the end of 2015 and Sensenbrenner said “that is not going to be renewed. There are not the votes in the House to renew Section 215.”

Sensenbrenner, along with Democratic Rep. Zoe Lofgren of California, asked administration officials on Wednesday to allow major tech companies, such as Google, Microsoft and Yahoo, to publish information on NSA requests they get for user data,reports The Hill. 

Also on Wednesday, several administration officials testified at a Congressional hearing about the program, admitting that the agency has the technology to track ATM transactions and the locations of cell phones, but promised Congress they would seek permission before doing that.

While some lawmakers accused the administration of trying to hide the programs, John Litt, general counsel for the Office of National Intelligence, said the Obama administration is trying to determine if it can provide Congress with more information about court opinions and data collection.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Peter Kadzik, in a letter to Sensenbrenner, said the government needs to collect the information, but only goes through it when they have a suspected terrorist to catch.

Kadzik said officials need to collect the information because phone companies only store data for a limited period of time, and sometimes more information is needed.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Court Redefined ‘Relevant’ to Give NSA Broader Collection Powers.

Image: Court Redefined 'Relevant' to Give NSA Broader Collection Powers

By Melanie Batley

The National Security Agency was given expanded authority to gather millions of phone records of Americans after a secret court decided on a broader interpretation of the word “relevant,” a new report revealed on Monday.

The changed definition by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) permitted the NSA to expand its surveillance activity from one that was focused solely on terrorism and criminal activity to gathering “everything” as part of its broader ongoing investigation into international terrorismThe Wall Street Journal reports.

“It think it’s a stretch,” of previous federal interpretations, Mark Eckenwiler, a senior counsel at law firm Perkins Coie, told the Journal.

Eckenweiler, who was the Justice Department‘s primary authority on federal criminal surveillance law until last fall, added that if a federal attorney “served a grand-jury subpoena for such a broad class of records in a criminal investigation, he or she would be laughed out of court.”

But FISA departed from traditional legal limitations of surveillance, citing national security concerns. The change was then written into the 2001 Patriot Act when the law was renewed in 2006.

After Edward Snowden revealed details of the NSA’s mass data collection, the Obama administration defended the use of large databases, which included records of phone calls dialed and their location, saying more narrow collections would limit its ability for comprehensive screening of terrorism-related communications.

The administration has also pointed to privacy safeguards put in place to limit searches of databases only “when there is a reasonable suspicion, based on specific facts” that a query is associated with a foreign terrorist organization. The content of calls and email messages, for example, are not collected.

Congress repeatedly had the option to prohibit the bulk collection of records but took no action. Still, some lawmakers are concerned that the breadth of surveillance is unjustified.

“The government must request specific records relevant to its investigation,” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican and one of the authors of the Patriot Act, told the Journal.

“To argue otherwise renders the provision meaningless. It’s like scooping up the entire ocean to guarantee you can catch a fish.”

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

House Committee Plans Report on Rosen Investigation.

The House Judiciary Committee said Friday that it plans to produce a report about the Justice Department‘s spying on the emails and phone records of Fox News reporter James Rosen

The announcement came after the committee conferred privately with Attorney General Eric Holder over the issue, The Hill reports.

Four bipartisan members of the committee said their meeting with Holder generated new information about the Justice Department’s leak investigation. The four include committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, R-Va.; ranking member John Conyers, D-Mich.; and Reps. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., and Bobby Scott, D-Va.

“Today we had a frank discussion with Attorney General Holder about his testimony before the House Judiciary Committee and the search warrant for James Rosen’s emails. The House Judiciary Committee intends to issue a report outlining its findings of its investigation into this matter,” the members said in a statement.

No date has been set for the release of the report.

The government’s query into Rosen apparently dates back to an article he wrote four years ago that U.S. officials were concerned about the intent of North Korea’s nuclear weapons program.

The U.S. government cited Rosen as a criminal co-conspirator in a search warrant that was included in its case against State Department contractor Steven Kim, who has been charged with giving classified information to Rosen.

The Judiciary Committee has questioned Holder extensively, trying to determine whether he planned on prosecuting Rosen as part of the case against Kim, The Hill reports.

Holder has repeatedly denied the Justice Department ever intended to press charges against any journalist in the investigation.

Some Republicans say Holder misled the committee when he denied knowing about any discussions to prosecute journalists, Politico reports.

© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Dan Weil

Holder Calls James Rosen Investigation ‘Appropriate’.

Image: Holder Calls James Rosen Investigation 'Appropriate'


By Lisa Barron

Attorney General Eric Holder defended his May 15 testimony before the House Judiciary Committee regarding the investigation of the media for publishing leaks, writing in a new letter that “it remains my understanding” that no journalists have been prosecuted for publishing classified information.

Referring to the DOJ investigation of Fox News reporter James Rosen for leaks related to North Korea, Holder said no charges were brought against the journalist and the probe was “appropriate.”

“I do not agree that characterizations establishing probable cause for a search warrant for materials from a member of the news media during an ongoing investigation constitute an intent to prosecute that member of the news media,” he wrote in the June 19 letter to Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Bob Goodlatte, a Virginia Republican.

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“I do believe that a thorough investigation of the disclosure of classified information that threatened national security was necessary and appropriate,” he continued.

Goodlatte and the panel’s crime subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner, a Wisconsin Republican, originally wrote to Holder on May 29 asking for clarification of discrepancies between his testimony and an affidavit in support of the search warrant saying there is “probable cause” to believe Rosen was a co-conspirator in the leaks.

But until Wednesday, the committee had not received an on-the-record response from Holder. A letter from one of his deputies was “nonresponsive,” the committee said.

Goodlatte and Sensenbrenner later issued a statement on Holder’s response, saying that while they were “pleased” Holder had written, “it is perplexing that he found it necessary to dodge our questions for so long.”

They also said they found several of his answers “troubling, including his acknowledgement that the Department of Justice regulations do not explicitly cover the procedures for gathering emails belonging to members of the media and the department’s interpretation of the Privacy Protection Act of 1980.”

“We intend to discuss both of these matters with Mr. Holder when he comes to Capitol Hill in the coming days to meet with us,” they added.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

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