Holder Feeling Heat From House Democrats Over Use Of FBI National Security Letters For Domestic Spying

A pair of House Democrats is adding a bipartisan flavor to months of GOP-led protestations over the way President Barack Obama’s Department of Justice circumvents the spirit of Constitutional protections against warrantless searches and seizures.

Congressmen Jerrold Nadler (N.Y.) and David Cicilline (R.I.), both Democrats, sent a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder this week

Rep Jerrold Nadler
Rep Jerrold Nadler
Rep David Cicilline
Rep David Cicilline

demanding the DOJ explain its rationale for relying on the FBI’s secret National Security Letters, which allow Federal law enforcement to compel banks and Internet providers to give up private customer information — without their knowledge or consent.

National Security Letters are among the Patriot Act’s many freedom-choking legacies. The DOJ welcomes the FBI’s interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act to include the FBI’s use of National Security Letters to collect wire-based data, as the two Congressmen point out, on a “case-by-case basis.”

Here’s the full text of the letter:

Dear Attorney General:

Over the past several months, the media has focused on Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act.  Section 215 permits the government to obtain “any tangible thing” if there are “reasonable grounds to believe” the information sought is “relevant” to an investigation “to obtain foreign intelligence information not concerning a United States person or to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”

Under this authority, the National Security Agency collects records on virtually every phone call made in the United States.  We understand that the Federal Bureau of Investigation may also use Section 215 to collect telephone records on a case-by-case basis.  Section 215, of course, requires the government to obtain the approval of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before it may demand these records from a communications service provider.

On February 4, 2014, at a full committee hearing of the House Judiciary Committee, we questioned Deputy Attorney General James M. Cole about a different investigative tool—National Security Letters, or “NSLs.”

NSLs permit the FBI to obtain, among other things, telephone records, email subscriber information, and financial transaction records that are “relevant to an authorized investigation to protect against international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.”2 NSLs are issued by senior FBI officials.  No judicial finding is necessary.

The Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies noted that “foreign intelligence investigations are especially likely to implicate highly sensitive and personal information and to have potentially severe consequences for the individuals under investigation.”3 The Review Group was “unable to identify a principled reason why NSLs should be issued by FBI officials when section 215 orders . . . must be issued by the FISC,”4 and therefore recommended that “all statutes authorizing the use of National Security Letters should be amended to require the use of the same oversight, minimization, retention, and dissemination standards that currently govern the use of section 215 orders.”

As we consider reforms to the government’s surveillance capabilities, it would be helpful to understand more about the interplay between Section 215 and NSLs.  To that end, we ask the following questions:

·    Presumably, anything that the government can obtain through an NSL it can also obtain through a Section 215 order from the FISA court.  Given the overlap with Section 215, why are NSLs necessary?

·    In what instances would the FBI choose to use an NSL instead of Section 215?  In what instances would the FBI choose to use Section 215 instead of an NSL?

·    In 2009, the Department of Justice reported that the FBI had made 21 applications for business records to the FISA court.  In 2010, the number of requests jumped to 205.  In a 2011 letter to Senator Patrick Leahy, FBI Director Robert Mueller explained that “over the last two years, the FBI has increasingly had to rely on business records orders to obtain electronic communications transactions records that historically were obtained with NSLs.”6 Why did the FBI shift from NSLs to Section 215? Does it still rely on Section 215 for these purposes?  Does the FBI’s dependence on one authority or the other shift over time?

Although the government periodically reports certain aggregate numbers to the House Judiciary Committee, we require a side-by-side comparison of (1) the FBI’s use of NSLs, (2) the FBI’s use of Section 215, and (3) the NSA’s use of Section 215, which often generates leads for the FBI.
We therefore request that you provide, for all fiscal years from 2006 to the latest available reporting period, the following information:

·    The number of NSLs issued by the FBI, the statutory authority for each such NSL, and the number of U.S. persons targeted by such NSLs;

·    The number of times that the FBI has requested a Section 215 order from the FISA court, the number of such orders modified and granted, and the number of U.S. persons targeted by such orders;

·    The number of “RAS-approved” selectors used by the NSA to query telephone metadata; the number of searches conducted with those selectors; and the number of times these queries generated a tip to the FBI.

We ask that you provide this information as soon possible, but no later than March 7, 2014.

Thank you for your prompt attention to this matter. If you have any questions, please contact John Doty from Congressman Nadler’s Office at 202.225.5635 or William Walsh from Congressman Cicilline’s Office at 202.225.4911.

Sincerely,

Jerrold Nadler   Member of Congress

David Cicilline     Member of Congress

Even the NSA must go through at least a pantomime of the judicial process, via the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISC), to obtain legal authorization to spy on everyone. But, as The Hill’s Julian Hattem notes, the FBI can rely on National Security Letters without any judicial review whatsoever.

While it’s obvious that this election season has plenty of Democratic Congressmen pretending to act like outraged Republicans in order to save their seats, Nadler and Cicilline have at least — perhaps unwittingly — made a bipartisan matter out of something the Obama Administration has preferred, so far, to treat as a fringe issue that draws complaint only from “right-wing” Constitutionalists.

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Sheila Jackson Lee Says We’ll Send Obama Executive Orders that He Can Sign

Sheila Jackson-Lee
Sheila Jackson-Lee

The Progressives on the new House Democratic “Full Employment Caucus” are planning to “draft” executive orders for President Obama to sign, according to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas.

Legislation doesn’t have to pass Congress anymore! It just needs to be approved by the Full Employment Caucus and sent straight to the President because the Caucus “will be answering the call of all of America,” according to Congresswoman Jackson Lee.

So now we apparently have a Dictatorship of the Proletariat right here in the United States.

Here is what she said:

We will be answering the call of all of America because people need work and we’re not doing right by them by creating work. And I believe this caucus will put us on the right path and we’ll give President Obama a number of executive orders that he can sign with pride and strength.

In fact, I think that should be our number one agenda. Let’s write up these executive orders — draft them, of course — and ask the president to stand with us on full employment.

Student Loan Interest Rates Set to Double On Monday

14191205-illustration-depicting-a-highway-gantry-sign-with-a-student-loans-concept-blue-sky-backgroundSeven million college students will see their student loan costs double on Monday, after a group of bipartisan lawmakers failed to agree on a plan to keep interest rates down.

The Senate adjourned for the July 4 recess on Thursday, but failed to keep interest rates on Stafford loans at the current 3.4 percent rate.  The failure to vote on a plan before the recess means that interest rates on new, federally subsidized loans will double to 6.8 percent Monday.

Congress’ Joint Economic Committee estimates that the average student will be paying $2,600 more starting July 1. On a $23,000 student loan repaid over 10 years, a student would be paying about $3,000 total interest.

Subsidized student loans are awarded based on financial need, and interest doesn’t accumulate while students are enrolled in college. (Unsubsidized loans, which are available to all undergraduates, already have an interest rate of 6.8 percent.) The increase was long-planned: it was originally supposed to happen last year, the result of legislation passed in 2007 that gradually lowered interest rates for five years, but an election-year coalition of student advocates and the Obama campaign successfully pushed for a one-year extension.

But after paying little attention to the issue for the past 11 months, lawmakers failed to agree on a new proposal and spent the past few weeks arguing about a solution.

A rare agreement between the Obama administration and Congressional Republicans on switching to a market-based rate led many observers to believe that compromise was possible. But the issue got bogged down in Congressional deadlock as Democrats pushed for capping interest rates or extending the current rates, while the House passed a plan that the Obama administration threatened to veto.

student_loanThis doesn’t mean, however, that college graduates with subsidized loans will actually pay more starting next month. As the article explains, the higher interest rate will apply only to new loans, issued this year. No one currently making payments will see a rate hike.  Whether students will actually pay the new rate — which applies only to new, federally subsidized loans — is unclear.

On Thursday, Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who chairs the education committee, said lawmakers would consider a one-year fix that would apply retroactively on July 10.  Since the federal government is the lender for all new student loans, Congress could adjust interest rates after the fact. But where the money will come from to pay for the extension, which last year cost $6 billion, is an open question.

The US government is already forecast to make a record $51 billion profit from the federal student loan program this year at current interest rates, which Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) described as “billions of dollars off the backs of our students.”

If lawmakers fail to make a retroactive deal that would undo the impending spike in interest rates, US college students may find themselves unable to afford taking out a federal loan.

Rep. Maxine Waters Inflates Sequester to ’170 Million’ Jobs Lost

Rep. Maxine Waters
Rep. Maxine Waters

Congresswoman Maxine Waters had a dire prediction for America about sequestration, claiming that 170 million jobs would be lost as a result of the across-the-board cuts. But according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are only about 140 million jobs in the whole country.

During a press conference on February 28, Waters told reporters of a visit by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke who told members of congress that sequestration is not the optimal way to cut the federal budget.

Talking of Bernanke’s comments, Waters claimed that “if sequestration takes place, that’s going to be a great setback. We don’t need to be having something like sequestration that’s going to cause these jobs losses, over 170 million jobs that could be lost.”

However, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, Table A-9, Selected Employment Indicators, in January of 2013 there were 141,614 million jobs in the current American economy.

Using Waters’ math, the US would lose about 30 million more jobs than it had to start with.

Maxine Waters was selected to be her party’s senior member on the Financial Services committee in December.

Pelosi: Congressional Pay Cut Undermines Dignity of the Job

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said that she opposes a cut in congressional pay because it would diminish the dignity of lawmakers’ jobs.

“I don’t think we should do it; I think we should respect the work we do,” Pelosi told reporters in the Capitol. “I think it’s necessary for us to have the dignity of the job that we have rewarded.”

The comments were made in the context of the looming sequester, which would force across-the-board cuts affecting most federal offices, including Congress. With lawmakers nowhere near a deal to avert those cuts, federal agencies are bracing for ways to absorb them with minimum damage to programs and personnel.

Pelosi, whose husband is a wealthy real-estate developer, was quick to note that a cut in her own pay would be far less significant than that for both staffers and less wealthy members of Congress.

Gun Control Legislation Ready To Go

Senator Dianne Feinstein
Senator Dianne Feinstein

The New Year has just arrived and Senator Diane Feinstein already has parts of new gun control legislation ready to go. Two Sunday’s ago on NBC’s Meet the Press, Feinstein talked about giving President Obama a bill he can “lead on” and used the term assault weapon loosely.

Feinstein has posted a summary of what the legislation will cover, which inculdes a ban on semi-automatic handguns and shotguns in addition to rifles. The legislation also requires registration of previously purchased guns.

Senator Feinstein’s ultimate plan has always been to have Mr. and Mrs. America turn in their guns to the government, period. Feinstein has admitted that the bill is about gun confiscation.

She tells us a gun ban is about saving the children and reducing crime, but her comments on 60 Minutes in 1995 reveal her true plan is to disarm the American people.

Feinstein’s  legislation is open-ended and includes provisions to re-register firearms and submit the fingerprints of law-abiding Americans as if they’re sex offenders.  The bill will also include a buy-back provision that will allow the government to confiscate all firearms.

Both Feinstein and New York governor Andrew Cuomo have said that is their plan.

It is a gun confiscation bill.

Chicago, which has been an example to follow for the anti-gun lobby for decades, probably has the toughest gun laws in the country. In fact, so extreme is the gun control in the Windy City that prior to the 2010 Supreme Court decision in McDonald v. Chicago, you couldn’t even have a gun in your own house with which to defend yourself or your family.

A Chicago home owner was like a public school teacher — he had to sit defenseless with his fingers crossed and simply hope the criminals didn’t target his house on a given day or night.

Even now, after the McDonald decision, you have jump through a myriad of hoops to get a gun.  And, although they are working on it, concealed carry has yet to be legalized.

Yet the truth is more than 440 school-age children have been shot in Chicago in 2012. This is not to say that 440 school-age children died, simply that more than 440 school-age children were at least wounded. The number of school-age children killed is reported at approximately 60.

Despite all the shootings, murders, and bloodshed, you never hear a peep about this from progressive politicians or the leftist run mainstream media. So why isn’t this news worthy? Is it because it would embarrass those anti second amendment fanatics who brag about Chicago’s tough gun laws? Is it because most of the kids who were shot and killed were minorities? Or is it because the corrupt media doesn’t want to show Chicago in a bad light?

THE LIST OF MURDERED SCHOOL AGE CHILDREN 2012

18 YEARS OLD- 15

17 YEARS OLD- 16

16 YEARS OLD- 16

15 YEARS OLD- 6

14 YEARS OLD- 4

13 YEARS OLD- 2

12 YEARS OLD- 1

7 YEARS OLD- 1

6 YEARS OLD- 1
THE LIST OF SCHOOL AGE CHILDREN SHOT IN 2012

18 year old- 110

17 year old- 99

16 year old- 89

15 year old- 62

14 year old- 39

13 year old- 21

12 year old- 10

11 year old- 2

10 year old- 3

9 year old- 1

7 year old- 3

6 year old- 2

5 year old- 1

4 year old- 1

3 year old- 1

1 year old- 2

The bottom line: No matter how tough the gun laws are, the crazed, nut jobs will find a way to get them and, if they so chose, use them. No draconian law can stop this, no matter how well intentioned the law is.  It seems that denying the free exercise of the right to keep and bear arms to law-abiding citizens not only does not curtail the actions of criminals, but actually emboldens them.