On Thursday (Jan 11th) this week, the House will vote to reauthorize the soon to be expired Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act. Section 702 is intended to allow US intelligence agencies to spy on foreigners under the supervision of the FISA court. Many people agree that Section 702 has been an important and useful tool in the fight against terrorism. Unfortunately, the law’s implementation has been twisted beyond Congress’s original intent to allow for warrentless collection and searches of Americans’ communications.
The Noem campaign recently sent an email to their mailing list titled, “Not One Bit”, in which Noem claims that she’s the same person now as when she first went to Washington, DC. I often lament that Noem isn’t the representative that she used to be, and I suspect many South Dakotans feel the same way or Noem wouldn’t have sent that email.
When Noem went to Washington as a Tea Party favorite, she was committed to reigning in wasteful federal spending that puts future generations of South Dakotans at risk. In her first year in Congress, Noem and her freshman class bucked the establishment Republicans and managed to pass the Budget Control Act. What’s more, that was done with Democrats in control of the Senate and the White House. From 2011-2013, Noem issued 17 press releases regarding federal spending and the debt. Hear are a few quotes from 2011-2013:
Over the last few days, Kristi Noem has been sponsoring some Trump inspired fear and anger campaign ads to goat people into signing up for her campaign’s mailing list. The first up from two days ago:
In it, I see the Northeastern United States, a passenger jet pointed downward, and a masked Middle Eastern fighter. It’s clearly aimed at portraying refugees as terrorists and eliciting memories of Sept 11, 2001.
Today, there’s an updated ad:
Now we see the entire country, no more Middle Eastern fighter, and the airplane is no longer pointed to the ground. Why the change? Your guess is as good as mine. Perhaps Noem realized that refugees are actually the victims of terrorism.
For years, Kristi Noem has been campaigning against the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare); primarily due to the ever increasing cost of insurance. And now that Republicans finally have the majority to get things done, they’re squandering that opportunity by attempting to replace it with more of the same.
Health care costs were rapidly increasing even before Obamacare, and it’s the ever increasing cost of health care that is hurting South Dakotans. Obamacare tried and failed to stem the rising cost of insurance, and I just don’t see how the Republican plan will be any different.
Last month Rep. Kristi Noem voted against a bi-partisan amendment that would have required the government to seek a warranty prior to querying the internet data of American citizens. Opponents of the bill politicized the Orlando tragedy in order to defeat the amendment which had passed the previous two years.
Rep. Noem has a mixed track record on this amendment. She voted yes three years ago, and then has voted no the last two years. I sent a letter asking why she changed her vote, but I never received a reply. I’m speculating that Rep. Noem has been influenced in part from the intense lobbying from the FBI and intelligence community regarding this amendment. After all, the FBI would rather not bother with judicial oversight and warrants.
Just yesterday, Rep. Kristi Noem voted in favor of the deceptive H.R. 5606: Anti-terrorism Information Sharing Is Strength Act. Fortunately, the bill failed. As Republican Rep. Justin Amash put it, “… H.R. 5606 will permit the government to demand information on any American from any financial institution merely upon reasonable suspicion.” Reasonable suspicion by the way, is the same legal standard federal officials used when needlessly strip searching a teen-age Sturgis girl.
H.R. 5606 is deceptive in that it’s not really about stopping terrorists. Section 314 of the Patriot Act already allows law enforcement to seek financial records of suspected terrorists and money launderers. H.R. 5606 allows law enforcement to seek financial records based on the low “reasonable suspicious” standard for any matter of crime, all without a search warrant/judicial oversight.
Over the past several weeks, Rep Noem has been touting her sponsorship of the Women, Peace, and Security Act of 2016. There were some aspects of the press release that annoyed me, but I ignored it like everybody else. (It garnered zero comments over at Dakota War College). But then it showed up in my facebook feed, and in my local newspaper. My annoyance boiled over and I decided to dust off the blog.
So what’s not to like? Here’s what annoyed me…
This bill isn’t needed. American society is already recognizing the importance of women without this bill. Recall Hillary Clinton? As Secretary of State, she was our nation’s top diplomat. Later this year, Clinton will likely become our nation’s President. Additionally, the United Nations Security Council has already adopted seven resolutions over the years that address the same issues. Noem’s bill is unnecessary, duplicative, and adds additional cost and bureaucracy to an already inefficient government.
The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) will make permanent nonsensical laws which prevent farmers from actually owning their farm equipment, and turn farmers that that diagnose, repair, and/or modify their farm equipment into criminals.
First, some background. TPP is a trade agreement among twelve Pacific Rim countries. The stated goal of the agreement is to,
“promote economic growth; support the creation and retention of jobs; enhance innovation, productivity and competitiveness; raise living standards; reduce poverty in our countries; and promote transparency, good governance, and enhanced labor and environmental protections.”
On June 11th, Congress passed the Massie-Lofgren admendment to the 2016 Defense Appropriations bill. From Rep. Massie’s press-release:
Under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, Americans’ private data and communications – including emails, photos, and text messages – can be collected by intelligence agencies, provided that data or communication at some point crosses the border of the United States. Given the current fluid nature of electronic communications and data storage, in which corporate and private server farms store Americans’ data all over the world, this loophole could allow intelligence agencies access to a vast swath of communications and data without warrant protection. Intelligence officials have confirmed to Congress that law enforcement agencies actively search the content of this intercepted data without probable cause, and have used evidence gathered to assist in criminal prosecutions. Government agencies have also reportedly coerced individuals and organizations to build encryption “backdoors” into products or services for surveillance purposes, despite industry and cryptologist claims that this process is not technologically feasible without putting the data security of every individual using these services at risk. The Massie-Lofgren Amendment would prohibit funding for activities that exploit these “backdoors.”
A coalition of 25 various organizations led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) recently graded elected officials in Washington, D.C. on the extent to which they are pushing for real surveillance reform. From the coalition’s website:
We are calling on the United States government to:
- Pass strong legislative reform to outlaw mass surveillance, including phone record surveillance and Internet surveillance. This must include a recognition of the privacy rights of non-US citizens.
- Reform the FISA court, the secret court that signs off on the NSA’s secret surveillance. FISA court reform includes transparency into any significant or new legal interpretations made by court and ensuring a well-resourced public advocate is in place to argue for privacy rights within the court and seek further review.
- Prohibit the NSA from undermining international encryption technologies and standards and hacking into technology companies.
- Promote transparency, publish transparency reports, and also give companies rights to publish granular accounts about how companies cooperate with bulk surveillance efforts and the number of user accounts that are affected.
Congress hasn’t acted on all of these issues recently, so I’d think of it as more of a mid-term report card. The methodology for the report card can be seen at the coalition’s web site. The Senate hasn’t voted on any related measures, so neither Sen. Thune and Sen. Johnson were graded.