Monday, June 1, 2015

GOP-Run Congress: Gridlocked, Ineffective, Stalemated, Out of Step, Flatline Next

GOP Leadership: doubtful they can even spell the word...
(NSA snooping issue)

Next for GOP Congress

Update on the NSA bulk data gathering:

WASHINGTON — In a remarkable turnaround, Senate Republicans have agreed to debate a House bill that would overhaul the National Security Agency's handling of Americans' calling records (see below reference) that at the same time would help preserve other domestic surveillance provisions. 

But that move didn't happen soon enough to prevent expiration of legal authority for the programs from expiring at midnight Sunday night. Now Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), a 2016 presidential contender, is hitting the airwaves hammering Mr. Obama. Keep in mind it was he who stood and still stands in the way of extending the overall program. 

That is angering his GOP colleagues, frustrating intelligence and law enforcement officials, and generally pissing off most GOPers who want the mass bulk collection left in place to “keep us safe from ISIS coming here and killing us all” (Sen. Lindsey Graham’s words – not mine) (Related Note: Sen. Graham off and running today, too).

So, the question is whether the Senate will pass a bill the House passed and can live with (see below reference), and if so, then the surveillance program will resume, but with some major and significant changes in how the phone records are collected and handled, or if not, will remain dormant?  

I think as millions of others think, this inaction could harm our tracking of any bad guys – the issue is simple: Yes, collect and act on what data is considered applicable, but NOT info on every single American with a telephone or tablet or computer.  That makes no sense unless done legally and court approved – that is the only issue.

Original Post from Here with Background on the above: On May 13, 2015, the House passed the new the new “Freedom Act” but it is hung up in the Senate now with a lot of fear tactics in play. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and others want a “clean extension of the bill specifically Section 215 until 2020 and in its present form.” Opposition and fear are strong on all sides…  Where are we now?

THE QUESTION EVERYONE IS ASKING (extracts from here): “What is the impact if SECTION 215 expires or the entire thing expires and the Senate does not approve the House’s Freedom Act which lessens fear over the metadata bulk collection?"

Woe is us, I guess. Ding… please keep in mind that two other “Patriot Act” provisions set to expire if the Freedom Act is NOT passed (that deal with fighting terrorism as it were) are:  (1) The roving wiretap provision, and (2) The lone wolf tracking provision — are relatively uncontroversial and would be extended unchanged under either the Freedom Act or a clean re-authorization. (Thus some GOP fear may be misplaced).


(1) The roving-wiretap provision allows investigators to obtain court orders allowing them to follow a suspect who switches phones, instead of needing an individual warrant for each device. The FBI has historically said roving wiretaps are an important tool that allows them not to go dark on targets who might use burner phones and,

(2) The lone-wolf language allows intelligence services the ability to spy on non-U.S. suspects not believed to be connected to a terrorist organization or a foreign government. A pro-reform Hill staffer said that this authority has never actually been used.

Both roving wiretap and lone wolf will also be turned off if the June 1 expiration occurs. That is a real concern, more so that the metadata/bulk collection program.  Sen. McConnell and his hawks want to keep the status quo – nothing else … common sense says pass the House version of the Freedom Act and stop the hand wringing and fear mongering.

However, McConnell and his gang are not listening much I would argue: Their concerns over losing a broader Section 215 (bulk collection) are not sufficient reason to support the House-passed USA Freedom Act as they say – thus we need it all extended until 2020.

While the House version would end the metadata collection (bulk collection) program and usher in other surveillance reforms related to transparency and oversight, it would, however, preserve much of the other powers granted by Section 215, in addition to the lone-wolf and roving-wiretap provisions also staring down a June 1 expiration as outlines above. The worry warts are out in force and most argue unnecessarily.  

So, how did we get to this point? These two references relate to the story in more legal detail, extracts from them follow – click to read each one entirely: 

Keep in mind that a common premise among most of Congress if not most of the public is:

“Congress can do what pretty much what they please about anything taking a chance on the legal and public fall out later (call it fingers cross rule) – that is the can enact laws they choose and make decisions that they want when they want.” (Or, if a presidential veto is overridden).

In essence they take their chances with any public outrage or legal fallout like now and what is amazing about that is there are a lot of lawyers serving in Congress. Don’t or didn’t they know or suspect that the metadata gathering part of the Patriotic Act was illegal or should be, if so, they apparently did not and do not care even now since the Snowden leaks to the world?  

However, an APPEALS COURT weighed in this way:

In a 97-page ruling, the three-judge panel for the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit (NY) has held that a provision of the USA Patriot Act permitting the Federal Bureau of Investigation to collect business records deemed relevant to a counter-terrorism investigation (e.g., that Section 215 – metadata collection) cannot be legitimately interpreted to permit the systematic bulk collection of domestic calling records, as the Court said in part: “[that provision of the act] cannot bear the weight the government asks us to assign to it, and that it does not authorize the telephone metadata program.”

I think this part of the ruling is critically important wherein the Judges said:

“We do so comfortably in the full understanding that if Congress chooses to authorize such a far‐reaching and unprecedented program, it has every opportunity to do so, and to do so unambiguously.” (That means in layman’s terms: If congress continues the program they do so knowing full and well it has been and remains illegal).

In summary I note and stand firm on these two points:

1.  How can Congress, any Congress for that matter, act knowing something has been ruled illegal or unlawful? Isn’t government supposed to stand for right and wrong, not the illegal over legal; and do good not bad? To pass good decent laws that are helpful, not harmful. Well with this bunch right now I have serious doubts.  

2.  Pass the House bill and stop worrying, Sen. McConnell and others. Have some faith and confidence in our system and the parts of the bill left in place, then fulfill your duties to the people.

Thanks for stopping ... Updates will follow - stay tuned.

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