The Laudable Pursuit: The Truth About FISA Reauthorization

Senator Mike Lee
2018-01-12 15:07:13
January 12, 2018 "to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln Chairman's Note: The Truth About FISA Reauthorization This Friday, the House of Representatives passed the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017, a bill that proponents claim adds key privacy protections to our nation's foreign surveillance system. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. For example, proponents of the House bill claim that their legislation includes a new provision that requires the federal government to obtain a warrant before searching their spying database for domestic targets. And it is true; there is a new provision that requires a warrant to search the federal government's dragnet databases under in certain circumstances. But this new warrant "protection" also contains a huge loophole that any biased law enforcement officer could drive a hundred million dollar Special Counsel investigation through. Specifically, the warrant requirement only kicks in if the FBI is conducting a predicated criminal investigation. The problem is that Intelligence Community investigations go through many stages, and a predicated criminal investigation is just the final stage. This means that during the first several stages of an investigation, government agents are free to use 702 collected data to spy on Americans without a warrant. And once government agents have collected that information on domestic targets it is very easy for that information to end up on the front pages of The Washington Post and The New York Times. It doesn't have to be this way. We can preserve the federal government's ability to monitor foreign communications and protect American citizens from terror attacks while still protecting American civil liberties. The House bill should be amended to include a stronger warrant requirement. One that requires the government to obtain a warrant before it can access information on United States persons, no exceptions. The House bill should also be amended to end "about" collection, which is the collection of communications that are not to or from a foreign target, but instead are communications that could merely contain a reference to an account of a foreign target. For example, assume two Americans are emailing about current events and mention the name of a foreign target. Currently the federal government is forbidden from collecting this information, but under the House bill they would be allowed to do so. We must close this invasive spying loophole as well. If the past year has taught us anything, it is that the federal government leaks like a sieve and any information that the government is allowed to collect has a good chance of appearing in the press as a political weapon. The House FISA bill will only make this situation worse. Senate leadership must give senators the chance to improve this bill so American security and liberty can both be ensured. Issue in Focus: A Good Start Towards Draining Washington's Housing Swamp One of the primary goals of the Obama administration was to use the full force of the federal government to force red state, suburban, and rural areas to adopt policies designed to change them into urban blue state communities. On the environmental side this policy invasion took the form of punitive regulations against the mining industry and million-acre land grabs that undermined the grazing industry. In education this meant using the carrot of Department of Education grant funding and the stick of No Child Left Behind testing punishments to force local school boards to adopt the federal government's preferred curriculum. And in housing, it meant using Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant programs to force local communities into building dense low-income housing. President Trump has begun to free local communities from Washington's forced conversion. He has rolled back multiple punitive mining regulations. He undid President Obama's 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument. And just last week he delayed enforcement of the HUD regulation President Obama was using to dictate zoning policies to communities across the United States. These are all good first steps, but particularly on the housing front more needs to be done. Specifically, HUD Secretary Ben Carson ought to begin the process of rescinding President Obama's 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule entirely. Promulgated pursuant to the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the AFFH has already proven to be an invasive and burdensome mess. While no one disputes that the Fair Housing Act's ban on racial, religious, and sexual discrimination fully fits within the federal government's power, the law's call for communities to "affirmatively further" other housing goals has proven controversial and divisive. Should suburban communities be forced to build high-density low-income housing? Should small towns be forced to advertise their low income housing stock to large cities? Should cities be forced to spread subsidized housing options throughout their jurisdiction? The Obama administration believed the answer to every above question is a strong "yes" and their AFFH rule is designed to use Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to turn HUD into basically a national zoning board. Defenders of Obama's housing power grab will tell you that federal law already prohibits HUD from mandating that localities adopt specific changes to their zoning laws. And that is true. But HUD has also figured out a way to circumvent that ban and it works like this. Instead of saying "you are mandated to adopt these zoning laws and construct low-income housing" which would be illegal, they say "if you want CDBG funding you must first create a zoning plan. And if we approve your 'voluntarily' created plan then we will give you grant money. If we don't approve your 'voluntary' plan, then you get nothing." This is nothing short of federally funded blackmail. I've made an effort to address this overreach by introducing S. 103, the Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act in the Senate (Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) has introduced a companion bill, HR 482, in the House). Our bills would stop federal funds from being used to implement, administer, or enforce President Obama's AFFH rule, making it truly voluntary and giving local communities the ability to make their own housing decisions without financial threats from the federal government. Our legislation is a long-term solution to the threat of a national zoning board, but HUD can take a more immediate step by rescinding the rule entirely. Washington, D.C. Office 361A Russell Senate Office Building Washington, D.C., 20510 Phone: 202.224.5444 Fax: 202.228.1168 Salt Lake City Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building 125 South State, Suite 4225 Salt Lake City, UT 84138 Phone: 801.524.5933 Fax: 801.524.5730 St. George Office of Senator Michael S. Lee 285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200 St. George, UT 84770 Phone: 435.628.5514 SaveSaveSave SaveSave SaveSaveSave Save Save Save Save Save Save SaveSave SaveSaveSave SaveSave Save This message was intended for: xxx You were added to the system October 2, 2015. For more information please follow the URL below: newsletter.senate.gov/p/iszsvAXoNK Follow the URL below to update your preferences or opt-out: newsletter.senate.gov/p/oszsvAXoNK To unsubscribe from future mailings, send an email to mailto:xxx?Subject=Unsubscribe&body=Please%20remove%20me%20from%20further%20mailings with "Unsubscribe" as the subject line.
January 12, 2018

"to elevate the condition of men--to lift artificial weights from all shoulders, to clear the paths of laudable pursuit for all, to afford all an unfettered start and a fair chance, in the race of life." --Abraham Lincoln

Chairman's Note: The Truth About FISA Reauthorization

This Friday, the House of Representatives passed the FISA Amendments Reauthorization Act of 2017, a bill that proponents claim adds key privacy protections to our nation’s foreign surveillance system.
 
Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.
 
For example, proponents of the House bill claim that their legislation includes a new provision that requires the federal government to obtain a warrant before searching their spying database for domestic targets. And it is true; there is a new provision that requires a warrant to search the federal government’s dragnet databases under in certain circumstances.
 
But this new warrant “protection” also contains a huge loophole that any biased law enforcement officer could drive a hundred million dollar Special Counsel investigation through. Specifically, the warrant requirement only kicks in if the FBI is conducting a predicated criminal investigation.
 
The problem is that Intelligence Community investigations go through many stages, and a predicated criminal investigation is just the final stage. This means that during the first several stages of an investigation, government agents are free to use 702 collected data to spy on Americans without a warrant.
 
And once government agents have collected that information on domestic targets it is very easy for that information to end up on the front pages of The Washington Post and The New York Times.
 
It doesn’t have to be this way. We can preserve the federal government’s ability to monitor foreign communications and protect American citizens from terror attacks while still protecting American civil liberties.
 
The House bill should be amended to include a stronger warrant requirement. One that requires the government to obtain a warrant before it can access information on United States persons, no exceptions.
 
The House bill should also be amended to end  “about” collection, which is the collection of communications that are not to or from a foreign target, but instead are communications that could merely contain a reference to an account of a foreign target.
 
For example, assume two Americans are emailing about current events and mention the name of a foreign target. Currently the federal government is forbidden from collecting this information, but under the House bill they would be allowed to do so. We must close this invasive spying loophole as well.
 
If the past year has taught us anything, it is that the federal government leaks like a sieve and any information that the government is allowed to collect has a good chance of appearing in the press as a political weapon.
 
The House FISA bill will only make this situation worse. Senate leadership must give senators the chance to improve this bill so American security and liberty can both be ensured.
 

Issue in Focus: A Good Start Towards Draining Washington’s Housing Swamp

One of the primary goals of the Obama administration was to use the full force of the federal government to force red state, suburban, and rural areas to adopt policies designed to change them into urban blue state communities.
 
On the environmental side this policy invasion took the form of punitive regulations against the mining industry and million-acre land grabs that undermined the grazing industry.
 
In education this meant using the carrot of Department of Education grant funding and the stick of No Child Left Behind testing punishments to force local school boards to adopt the federal government’s preferred curriculum.
 
And in housing, it meant using Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant programs to force local communities into building dense low-income housing.
 
President Trump has begun to free local communities from Washington’s forced conversion. He has rolled back multiple punitive mining regulations. He undid President Obama’s 1.3 million-acre Bears Ears National Monument. And just last week he delayed enforcement of the HUD regulation President Obama was using to dictate zoning policies to communities across the United States.
 
These are all good first steps, but particularly on the housing front more needs to be done. Specifically, HUD Secretary Ben Carson ought to begin the process of rescinding President Obama’s 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule entirely.
 
Promulgated pursuant to the Fair Housing Act of 1968, the AFFH has already proven to be an invasive and burdensome mess. While no one disputes that the Fair Housing Act’s ban on racial, religious, and sexual discrimination fully fits within the federal government’s power, the law’s call for communities to “affirmatively further” other housing goals has proven controversial and divisive.
 
Should suburban communities be forced to build high-density low-income housing? Should small towns be forced to advertise their low income housing stock to large cities? Should cities be forced to spread subsidized housing options throughout their jurisdiction?
 
The Obama administration believed the answer to every above question is a strong “yes” and their AFFH rule is designed to use Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding to turn HUD into basically a national zoning board.
 
Defenders of Obama’s housing power grab will tell you that federal law already prohibits HUD from mandating that localities adopt specific changes to their zoning laws. And that is true. But HUD has also figured out a way to circumvent that ban and it works like this.
 
Instead of saying “you are mandated to adopt these zoning laws and construct low-income housing” which would be illegal, they say “if you want CDBG funding you must first create a zoning plan. And if we approve your ‘voluntarily’ created plan then we will give you grant money. If we don’t approve your ‘voluntary’ plan, then you get nothing.”
 
This is nothing short of federally funded blackmail.
 
I’ve made an effort to address this overreach by introducing S. 103, the Local Zoning Decisions Protection Act in the Senate (Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) has introduced a companion bill, HR 482, in the House). Our bills would stop federal funds from being used to implement, administer, or enforce President Obama’s AFFH rule, making it truly voluntary and giving local communities the ability to make their own housing decisions without financial threats from the federal government.   
 
Our legislation is a long-term solution to the threat of a national zoning board, but HUD can take a more immediate step by rescinding the rule entirely.

 

Washington, D.C. Office
361A Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C., 20510
Phone: 202.224.5444
Fax: 202.228.1168

Salt Lake City
Wallace F. Bennett Federal Building
125 South State, Suite 4225
Salt Lake City, UT 84138
Phone: 801.524.5933
Fax: 801.524.5730

St. George
Office of Senator Michael S. Lee
285 West Tabernacle, Suite 200
St. George, UT 84770
Phone: 435.628.5514




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