Tag Archive: United States House Committee on the Judiciary

Chairman of key House committee agrees to proceed with NSA reform bill

• Judiciary committee chair gives new life to USA Freedom Act
• Bill to overhaul spy agency had been stalled by months of delay

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House judiciary committee Bob Goodlatte has agreed to support the surveillance overhaul bill. Photograph: Alex Milan Tracy/Corbis

The chairman of a key committee in the House of Representatives agreed to move on a major surveillance overhaul on Monday, after months of delay.

The decision, by the Republican chairman of the House judiciary committee, Bob Goodlatte of Virginia, breathes new life back into the USA Freedom Act, a legislative fix favoured by privacy advocates to prevent the US government from collecting domestic data in bulk.

The judiciary committee is expected to take action on an amendment encapsulating the provisions of the USA Freedom Act on Wednesday at 1pm. Congressional aides expected it to pass the committee with bipartisan support, setting up a fight on the House floor.

Goodlatte, who had been hesitant to endorse the bill, written by former committee chairman James Sensenbrenner, will now vote for it personally.

Goodlatte’s decision comes despite pressure by the House Republican leadership, which preferred an alternative bill, written by the House intelligence committee leadership, that would permit the government to acquire Americans’ data without a specific prior judicial order for it. Additional pressure came from a desire on all sides to avoid surveillance-related amendments to unrelated, critical bills slated for floor consideration later this month.

An attempt by the intelligence committee and the House leadership to circumvent Goodlatte’s committee and pass the rival bill is said by observers to have galvanised Goodlatte’s decision to move forward on the USA Freedom Act. Internal committee negotiations on modifying the USA Freedom Act for passage intensified after the House intelligence committee unveiled its bill in March.

The Obama administration has yet to take a public position on the House judiciary bill or the House intelligence bill, although President Barack Obama endorsed getting the National Security Agency out of the business of bulk domestic phone records collection in March.

“This will start to look like a reasonable path forward for surveillance reform,” said a congressional aide.

Barely an hour after the judiciary committee announced its move on the USA Freedom Act, the House intelligence committee announced that it will mark up its alternative bill, the Fisa Transparency and Modernization Act, on Thursday.

“This bill directly addresses the privacy concerns many Americans have expressed over bulk collection. The bill ends bulk collection of telephone metadata and increases transparency while maintaining the tools our government needs to keep Americans and our allies safe. We believe this bill responds to the concerns many members of Congress have expressed and can be the compromise vehicle to reform Fisa while preserving important counterterrorism capabilities,” said the intelligence committee leaders, Republican Mike Rogers of Michigan and Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, in a joint statement on Monday.


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A House committee has voted unanimously to rein in the NSA

Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.). (Bill O'Leary / The Washington Post)

A key House committee has approved a package of NSA reforms that would end the spy agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, nearly a year after former NSA contractor Edward Snowden disclosed the program’s existence.

The House Judiciary Committee voted 32-0 Wednesday to rein in the NSA with the USA FREEDOM Act, a measure that places new requirements on the government when it comes to gathering, targeting and searching telephone metadata for intelligence purposes.

In addition to prohibiting the NSA from engaging in what the bill’s sponsors have called “dragnet surveillance,” the bill would also require authorities to get permission from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court on a case-by-case basis. It would establish a panel of privacy experts and other officials to serve as a public advocate at the court. And it would also give businesses more latitude to tell the public about requests it receives from the government for user data.



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NSA warned to rein in surveillance as agency reveals even greater scope

NSA officials testify to angry House panel that agency can perform ‘three-hop queries’ through Americans’ data and records

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NSA officials James Cole, Robert S Litt and John Inglis appear before House committee. Photograph: J Scott Applewhite/AP

John C Inglis, the deputy director of the surveillance agency, told a member of the House judiciary committee that NSA analysts can perform “a second or third hop query” through its collections of telephone data and internet records in order to find connections to terrorist organizations.

“Hops” refers to a technical term indicating connections between people. A three-hop query means that the NSA can look at data not only from a suspected terrorist, but from everyone that suspect communicated with, and then from everyone those people communicated with, and then from everyone all of those people communicated with.

Inglis did not elaborate, nor did the members of the House panel – many of whom expressed concern and even anger at the NSA – explore the legal and privacy implications of the breadth of “three-hop” analysis.

But Inglis and other intelligence and law enforcement officials testifying before the committee said that the NSA’s ability to query the data follows rules set by the secret Fisa court, although about two dozen NSA officials determine for themselves when those criteria are satisified.

A document published last month by the Guardian detailing the history of the NSA’s post-9/11 bulk surveillance on telephone and internet data refer to one- or two-hop analysis performed by NSA. The document, provided by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden, does not explicitly mention three-hop analysis, nor does it clearly suggest that such analysis occurs.

Wednesday’s hearing was the second major public congressional hearing about the NSA’s surveillance activities since the Guardian and the Washington Post disclosed some of them in early June. Unlike the previous hearing on June 18 before the House intelligence committee, members of the House judiciary committee aggressively questioned senior officials from the NSA, FBI, Justice Department and Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

One senior member of the panel, congressman James Sensenbrenner, the author of the 2001 Patriot Act, warned the officials that unless they rein in the scope of their surveillance on Americans’ phone records, “There are not the votes in the House of Representatives” to renew the provision after its 2015 expiration.

“You’re going to lose it entirely,” Sensenbrenner said.

Inglis and deputy attorney general James Cole repeatedly argued that the NSA’s surveillance was limited because it only searches through its databases of phone records when it has a “reasonable, articulable suspicion” of a connection to terrorism.

But several members of the committee, of both parties, said they were concerned not merely about the analysis of the phone records but about NSA’s collection of millions of Americans’ phone data in the first place, without an individual suspicion of connections to terrorism.

“The statute says ‘collection’,” congressman Jerrold Nadler told Cole. “You’re trying to confuse us by talking use.”


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March 14, 2013


Rep. Conyers: ‘The Debt Is Not Endangering Us A Bit … Some Debt Is Not A Bad Idea’Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee. (AP)

(CNSNews.com) – Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), the ranking member of the House Judiciary Committee,  said on Thursday that the nation’s current debt of $16.7 trillion is “not endangering” the country,  adding that “some debt is not a bad idea” and that he and other congressional Democrats “don’t think there’s a problem.”

Conyers and other liberal Democrats spoke at a Capitol Hill press conference about their initiative to compel Congress to cancel the across-the-board budget cuts (sequester) of  $1.2 trillion over 10 years, which actually are reductions in the rate of increase in federal spending and amount to $44 billion for this year.

The sequestration reductions were triggered by the Budget Control Act of 2011.

At the event, CNSNews.com asked Conyers, “Republicans say if we don’t make cuts to reduce the deficit soon that sequester cuts will actually be small compared with cuts we would need to make if we continue on this track [of spending]. Meanwhile, Leader Pelosi has said she doesn’t think that we have a spending problem and the White House has recently said that we shouldn’t balance the budget just for the sake of balancing the budget. That said, by canceling sequester would we then be manufacturing a larger crisis in the future and, if so, how would you justify those more severe cuts to the American people?”


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Montana NDAA Nullification Bill Passes House Committee, 20-0

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By a unanimous voice voice today, the Montana House Judiciary Committee voted to approved House Bill 522 (HB522) and move it to the full state house.

A modified version of the Liberty Preservation Act released by the Tenth Amendment Center, Montana joins a growing choir of states and localities who’ve decided that waiting for federal politicians to repeal their own power is something they’re not willing to risk.

The bill was sponsored by State Representative Nicholas Schwaderer who worked hard behind the scenes to get a bipartisan group of legislators to cosponsor – 18 republicans and 6 democrats.

After yesterday’s committee hearing on HB522, Montana Tenth Amendment Center coordinator Tim Ravndal expressed his belief that the bill would pass, and the fact that a wide coalition across the political aisle was in support:

“HB 522 FLEW through the House Judiciary Committee Hearing. I was asked at the conclusion of the hearing how it felt to be on the same side with ACLU. “Politics make strange bedfellows” We had no opposition to the bill, and only one question from the committee seeking clarification. This bill is on the freight train heading for the Governor!”

If signed into law, HB522 would make it illegal for Montana to participate in NDAA indefinite detention: “The state of Montana may not provide material support or participate with the implementation of sections 1021 and 1022 of the federal National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2012, Public Law 112-81, within the boundaries of this state”

Noncompliance with federal law is 100% noncontroversial both legally and constitutionally. There’s absolutely ZERO serious thought that supports the idea that the federal government has the constitutional authority to require state agents to enforce federal laws. Even the Supreme Court has affirmed this more than once in recent history. Statements to the contrary are absurd.

Such noncompliance on a wide scale is very effective in rendering an unconstitutional federal act null, void or just unenforceable. Learn how this method plays out and works HERE.

ACTION STEPS for Montana….


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rizona NDAA Nullification Bill Passes Committee, 6-2

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By a vote of 6-2 the Arizona State House Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 2573 (HB2573), bringing it one step away from a full House vote.

A modified version of the Liberty Preservation Act released by the Tenth Amendment Center, Arizona joins a growing choir of states and localities who’ve decided that waiting for federal politicians to repeal their own power is something they’re not willing to risk.

Tenth Amendment Center member Bryan Berkland said as much in his public testimony in support of the bill:

“It would be nice if the federal government would check their own power, but that’s not happening.” Berkland began his testimony by pointing out the most important issue at hand, the federal government has no legitimate authority to indefinitely detain, that is, arrest without end and without access to courts or lawyers. He said, “When I read the Constitution, I don’t find any authorization for this.”

The bill was sponsored by State Representatives Carl Seel and Brenda Barton along with State Senator Judy Burgess. If signed into law, HB2573 would ban the state from providing “material support” or participating “in any way” with sections 1021 and 1022 of the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the sections which purport to authorize indefinite detention and are in effect today. (read more HERE and HERE).

At the beginning of testimony, the Committee chair noted that since so many people from the public were in attendance and had sign up to speak in favor of the bill – and no one has signed up to speak against it – they would allow a limited number of people to make the case. After Representative Seel and Berkland spoke, Mr Clark, a known local progressive activist, also urged the committee to vote in favor. In his testimony he spoke of something that’s happening across the country in opposition to indefinite detention – setting aside differences for common cause. “I stand strangely-enough with the republicans in support of this bill.”

Only one person spoke against the bill during the entire hearing – one of the two committee members who voted against it. (awaiting confirmation of the name of the member)

“A bill in contravention to the federal government is troubling to me. If someone is opposed to federal policy, the place to take it up is in the courts, not here in the state house.”

The problem with this statement is that the member is possibly not understanding the bill he just voted against. HB2573 doesn’t do anything to federal law. It says that the State of Arizona will not assist the federal government in carrying out their unconstitutional law. There’s absolutely ZERO serious thought that supports the idea that the federal government has the constitutional authority to require state agents to enforce federal laws. Even the Supreme Court has affirmed this more than once in recent history. Statements to the contrary are absurd.

Noncompliance with federal law – 100% noncontroversial both legally and constitutionally – is quite effective. Learn how this method plays out and works HERE.

Also, supporters of the bill might want to consider asking the representative if he would have been opposed to those states who passed laws in the 1850s in contravention to federal slave-catching laws, or if his rejection of such actions is simply limited to indefinite detention.



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Published on Jan 27, 2013

The NDAA and indefinite detention.


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Congressional Records

HR1540 Statement by the President

HR1540 (2012 NDAA signed into Law)

HR4310 (2013 NDAA signed into Law)

Wed, 06 Feb 2013 11:54 CST

© Reuters / Nacho Doce

Officials may gain access to intimate knowledge of the whereabouts of cell users in Maryland. Phone records could be handed over without a search warrant if a new bill passes. A civil liberties group has labeled the proposal ‘invasive’.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland has criticized government plans to allow law enforcement officials automatic access to these records, testifying against the intrusive tracking bill, House Bill 377 , on Tuesday. The bill is currently being considered by the Maryland House Judiciary Committee.

Law enforcement officials must obtain a search warrant prior to accessing such information, insisted ACLUM.

“Of all of the recent technological developments that have expanded the surveillance capabilities of law enforcement agencies at the expense of individual privacy, perhaps the most powerful is cell phone location tracking,” said the national American Civil Liberties Union last September, in response to knowledge they obtained that numerous police departments were tracking the devices without a search warrant anyway.

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