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Posts tagged ‘Ron Wyden’

Democrats Breaking with Obama on Key Issues.


Image: Democrats Breaking with Obama on Key IssuesFrom left: Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, Joe Manchin and Martin Heinrich

By Melanie Batley

 

A growing number of Senate Democrats are speaking out publicly against a range of President Barack Obama’s policies in an attempt to distance themselves from theincreasingly unpopular president in the run-up to the 2014 midterm elections.

According to Politico, the lawmakers appear to have become unusually comfortable with criticizing the president, particularly since the State of the Union Address. 

“You had two or three Democrats in the Senate who made statements after the president’s State of the Union speech that wouldn’t have been written any different if they had been written by the [National] Republican Senatorial Committee,” Missouri GOP Sen. Roy Blunt told Politico.

Until recently, criticism of the president was concentrated among vulnerable red state Democrats, but now others are becoming vocal in their dissent on a range of issues including energy policy, Obamacare, the Nation Security Agency surveillance programs, and the Keystone XL pipeline. 

For example, West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin, who isn’t up for re-election until 2018, has taken issue with Obama’s insistence in his State of the Union Address that he would bypass Congress whenever necessary to advance his agenda.

“I don’t think that’s what he meant. I swear to God I don’t,” Manchin said in an interview with Politico. “Could he have picked these words better? I would have thought he could have, I would have hoped he would have. But it came out offensive to a lot of people.”

Manchin is also part of a faction in the Senate that would approve construction of the Keystone pipeline, a group that is also critical of the administration’s positions on coal and energy exports.

North Dakota Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, another Democrat who isn’t up for re-election until 2018, has called Obama’s energy policies “schizophrenic.”

Meanwhile, New Mexico Sen. Martin Heinrich, a freshman, has been a persistent critic of the White House on NSA policy, according to Politico. 

“I think the framers did an incredible job of finding the right balance, so, we’ve gotten away from that. And when we get back to that, my outspokenness will diminish,” he said.

Sens. Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado have also been vocal about the need for changes to the NSA’s surveillance programs.

A number of Democrats have for months been attempting to distance themselves from the president on Obamacare, aware that the GOP is likely to highlight the program’s failures throughout the 2014 campaign. But as Blunt put it, it may be an uphill battle.

“The White House and the Senate leadership understand the need of senators in states where the president is not popular to differentiate themselves from the president when they can,” Blunt told Politico. 

“On the healthcare bill, it’s going to be particularly difficult because all of them voted for it, all of them supported it. And it’s not going to get better between now and Election Day.”

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

Wyden Waiting in the Wings to Take Over Senate Finance.


Image: Wyden Waiting in the Wings to Take Over Senate Finance

 

By Elliot Jager

Sen. Ron Wyden is set to become the next head of the Senate Finance Committee if Montana Democrat Max Baucus retires as expected to become the next U.S. ambassador to China, the Wall Street Journal reported.

The Oregon Democrat, respected in his party for his generally liberal views but described by Republicans as willing to reach accommodation across the aisle on economic issues, is expected to push for tax reform, which could include a substantial in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 24 percent, according to the Journal.

Bloomberg also reports another reason for Republicans to like him: he is “an ardent advocate of tax simplification,” favoring individual rates at 15, 25 and 35 percent.

Former New Hampshire Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, who worked with the 64-year-old Wyden on a tax reform measure some years back, told the Journal that Wyden has an “unrelenting positive outlook” on things and never gave up trying to hammer out a bipartisan bill even though it ultimately died without consideration.

Another House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan, also said Wyden “understands that true bipartisanship builds on the best ideas from both parties.”

The Wisconsin Republican, who is likely to succeed Michigan Rep. Dave Camp as chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, would have an opportunity to work with Wyden again next year if Republicans hold the House and Democrats hold the Senate. The two have worked in 2011 on Medicare reform plan, an effort that did not sit well with some of Wyden’s liberal colleagues, The Hill reported.

Wyden, however, has said that he has no plans to work with Ryan again on a Medicare reform effort, although the program remains one of his concerns. He reportedly believes that some effort has to be made to ensure that the program is more sustainable and more focused on chronic health problems.

“His big thing is that if you’re not talking about Medicare, you’re not talking about [fixing] the budget,” former Wyden aide Barbara Smith Warner told the Journal.

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© 2014 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

 

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 Wired.com.

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.

Sending Baucus to China Removes Democratic Critic of Obamacare.


Image: Sending Baucus to China Removes Democratic Critic of Obamacare

By Sandy Fitzgerald

Sending Montana Democratic Sen. Max Baucus off as the next U.S. ambassador to China could solve several problems for President Barack Obama, including removing one ofObamacare’s most vocal opponents from Capitol Hill.

Earlier this year, the outspoken lawmaker famously referred to Obamacare as a “huge train wreck,” saying it would be a failure if the government couldn’t afford money for research, reports The Washington Post. 

Baucus has also compared the HealthCare.gov launch to “Humpty Dumpty” with questions about whether the website could be eventually successful.

Removing Baucus from Washington means taking the outspoken critic away from his chairmanship of the Finance Committee since 2007. Baucus plans to retire next year, and ordinarily would be followed in the seat by second-ranking Democrat member Sen. Jay Rockefeller, D-W. Va.

However, like Baucus, Rockefeller plans to retire after next year, so Baucus’ seat, if he leaves early, is expected to be taken by Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden, the current chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Senate aides told The Washington Post. Wyden has criticized the White House’s healthcare plans in the past, but he is not as strident with his opposition as Baucus.

But there are other possible reasons beyond Obamacare for the president to nominate Baucus, The Post reports.

Baucus, 72, is leaving office next year, but Republicans are expected to take the red state next year with Rep. Steve Daines.

However, if Baucus steps down early, The Post speculates, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock can appoint a Democratic replacement who would be able to run for a full six-year term in 2014. Lt. Gov. John Walsh is already running for the seat, but if he is appointed to it early, he would be the incumbent when the election takes place, giving him an advantage over other candidates.

Obama’s 2012 campaign manager, Jim Messina, who is Baucus’ former top hand, may also be considering a campaign, The Post reports, so his name could also be in the short list to fill Baucus’ seat.

Baucus though, does have extensive experience in China, having visited eight times. He also lead U.S. efforts in the 1990s to persuade China to enter the World Trade Organization and worked to establish Permanent Normal Trade Relations between the two countries.

In addition, Baucus has hosted Chinese trade delegations in both Montana and Washington D.C.

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© 2013 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.”

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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.

Obama Looks to Baucus to Serve as China Ambassador.


President Barack Obama is looking to the Senate again to fill a top diplomatic post, with Democratic officials saying he intends to nominate six-term Sen. Max Baucus of Montana to be the next U.S. ambassador to China.

Baucus, who announced earlier this year that he would not seek re-election, is knowledgeable on trade issues as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee but better known for his work on that panel steering Obama’s health care overhaul into law three years ago.

If confirmed by the Senate, Baucus would replace Ambassador Gary Locke, who plans to step down next year. The White House could make a formal announcement about the selection of Baucus as early as Thursday.

Nearly a year ago, Obama reached into the Senate ranks when he nominated then-Sen. John Kerry to serve as secretary of state. The Massachusetts Democrat had a smooth path to confirmation, and Baucus, as a member of the Senate club, is likely to easily secure approval from his colleagues.

Baucus’ departure from the Senate would have an immediate impact on one of Congress’ most powerful committees and on the 2014 election for control of Congress. Under Montana state law, Democratic Gov. Steve Bullock has the authority to name a Senate successor to serve until the election, and speculation immediately turned to a fellow Democrat, Lt. Gov. John Walsh, already running for Senate.

Baucus, 72, sidestepped questions about the ambassadorship when asked in the Capitol. “It’s not for me to comment on. … This happens every once in a while. Names get floated around.”

The White House had no immediate comment on the disclosure, which was made by officials who spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the nomination publicly before a formal announcement.

Kathy Weber, a spokeswoman in Baucus’ office, declined to confirm the move but said, “Max has given his life to public service and when asked to serve he takes that request very seriously.”

Obama is in search of a new top diplomat in Beijing as he executes a so-called Asia pivot in U.S. military strategy to more directly counter China after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The relationship between the two nations has grown more troubled in recent weeks, with Chinese authorities unilaterally declaring an air defense zone over disputed islands in the East China Sea. The United States subsequently flew a pair of B-52 bombers through the space last month without incident, and Vice President Joe Biden sought to calm matters on his recent trip through Asia.

Baucus was first elected to the Senate in 1978 and since early 2007 has been chairman of the Finance Committee, which has jurisdiction over taxes, trade, health care and more. He has traveled to China more than a half dozen times.

On some key issues, he has pursued a more moderate approach than some fellow Democrats would prefer, a reminder that he hails from a rural, Western state with a history of electing Republicans as well as Democrats to top political offices.

Shortly after becoming chairman, he led the opposition to then-President George W. Bush’s proposal to privatize Social Security.

Two years later, with Obama in the White House, he struggled for months to assemble bipartisan backing for health care legislation in 2009 to the growing impatience of fellow Democrats. He managed to gain one Republican vote for legislation that cleared committee, but the final bill was thoroughly partisan.

As committee chairman, Baucus has pressed both Democratic and Republican administrations to take a harder line against what he says are unfair Chinese trade practices. The country has the largest trade surplus of any nation with the U.S., and American manufacturers claim it is manipulating its currency to maintain that imbalance.

Inside the Senate, Baucus’ appointment would create a vacancy atop the panel that Senate Democrats would fill. Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia is immediately behind Baucus in seniority and ordinarily would ascend to the chairmanship but has announced he intends to retire at the end of next year. Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon is next in line in seniority.

In comments to reporters, Rockefeller indicated he would not seek to claim the spot, saying it would be good if Wyden succeeded Baucus. “I want that committee to be a little more aggressive, and he will be,” he said.

Wyden is chairman of the Energy Committee and would likely be replaced there by an oil state Democrat, Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana.

With Democrats struggling to retain their majority in the 2014 elections, Baucus’ announced retirement had turned the state into a challenging one for the party. Obama lost the state in 2012 to Republican Mitt Romney by 13 points.

First-term Republican Rep. Steve Daines has announced his candidacy for the seat.

___

 

© Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Source: Newsmax.com

Reid Welcomes NSA Ruling, Is Open to Restrictive Legislation.


Joining other senators who welcomed a federal ruling that the National Security Agency’s cellphone snooping is likely unconstitutional, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says he’s now open to legislation that would curb some of the agency’s data collection, two reports said.”We know that senators, both Democrats and Republicans, would like to change the law that relates to some of the collection activities,” Reid said Tuesday, according to Politico 
and the Huffington Post.

“I think that’s good, I think we need a good, public debate on this,” Reid said.

NSA critic Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., called Monday’s ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Leon “a wake-up call to those who are supporting the status quo” that “puts at risk the liberties of the people and is damaging our economy.”

“I think our side is on the march,” he said, the Huffington Post reported.

But Reid said Leon’s ruling isn’t crystal-clear.

“All the rulings that have taken place on bulk collection, they don’t agree with what Leon said,” Reid said, the Huffington Post reported.

He’s not alone in his concern: Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein,D-Ca., one of the NSA’s biggest supporters, noted that a federal court decision last month ruled the NSA’s business records program constitutional, Politico reported.

But on “Andrea Mitchell Reports” on Tuesday, Feinstein eased up on her insistence, in an op-ed piece she wrote for The Wall Street Journal in October, that the program “is necessary and must be preserved if we are to prevent terrorist attacks.”

“I’m not saying it’s indispensable,” she said Tuesday. “But I’m saying that it is important, and it is a major tool in ferreting out a potential terrorist attack.”

Feinstein said that “only the Supreme Court can resolve the question on the constitutionality of the NSA’s program . . . I am very eager to see the court take this case. We will know once and for all,” the Huffington Post quoted her as saying.

Georgia Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss criticized Leon’s ruling, calling it “very disturbing,” Politico reported.

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© 2013 Newsmax. All rights reserved.

By Cathy Burke

Obama Won’t Release Senate Report on CIA Torture.


Image: Obama Won't Release Senate Report on CIA Torture

By Lisa Barron

The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence adopted a 6,300 page report on the CIA’s post-9/11 torture program a year ago — but it remains classified, meaning nobody else has seen it.

That’s because the Obama administration has yielded to pressure from a faction in the CIA to keep the agency’s rendition, detention, and interrogation tactics secret, The Atlantic reports.

Senators from both parties, however, have pushed the White House to make the contents of the report public.

Republican Sen. John McCain of Arizona has said the report “confirms for me what I have always believed and insisted to be true—that the cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of prisoners is not only wrong in principle and a stain on our country’s conscience, but also an ineffective and unreliable means of gathering intelligence.”

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, who heads the intelligence committee, said she thinks releasing the information “will settle the debate once and for all over whether our nation should ever employ coercive interrogation techniques such as those detailed in this report.”

In addition, the study contradicts the belief that these techniques were what led to finding Osama bin Laden‘s courier, suggesting that “the CIA detainee who provided the most accurate information about the courier provided the information prior to being subjected to coercive interrogation techniques,” according to McCain, Feinstein, and Democratic Sen. Carl Levin of Michigan, reports Politico Magazine.

And Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., told the publication that the reports details how “the CIA repeatedly provided inaccurate information about its interrogation program to the White House, the Justice Department, and Congress.”

The CIA reportedly sent a response to the report to Congress, criticizing many of its findings, but has apparently addressed just the bullet points that come before the executive summary.

Meanwhile, the Center for Victims of Torture is pressing not only for the release of the study but also for a response from the government.

“The Intelligence Committee’s 6,000-plus page report, containing more than 35,000 footnotes, is a serious and comprehensive review of the CIA’s past torture program. The report is a significant step to making sure the U.S. government does not return to official policies of torture and cruel treatment,” said Curt Goering, executive director of CVT.

“The Administration needs to get right its response to it. While the CIA certainly has a role in reviewing the report and providing feedback to the Intelligence Committee, given the agency’s large hand in policies of torture and cruel treatment, their comments should not be allowed to pass through without an independent assessment from other relevant agencies, including the White House.”

“Not doing so would be like letting the fox guard the henhouse,” he added.

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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.

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