Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced the bipartisan USA FREEDOM Act in October, 2013. The House of Representatives passed an amended bill by a vote of 303-121. In July, Chairman Leahy introduced a revised USA FREEDOM Act that reclaimed lost provisions from the original bill and strengthened privacy protections. Last week, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) filed for cloture on the measure.
Congressman Sensenbrenner: “The USA FREEDOM Act has been heavily negotiated since Chairman Leahy and I introduced it over a year ago. The bipartisan bill before the Senate has my full support and has been endorsed by an eclectic coalition, ranging from tech giants and privacy advocates to the Administration and Intelligence Community. There is no excuse not to pass this critical legislation during the lame duck. We have gone to great lengths to ensure our civil liberties are protected without compromising our national security. As the primary author of the Patriot Act, I know the importance of our intelligence gathering authorities, but the law must be used as Congress intended. It’s time to get this done and restore Americans’ trust in their government.”Read More
Members of the House Judiciary Committee, Congressmen Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Howard Coble (R-N.C.), Spencer Bachus (R-Ala.), Rodney Davis (R-Ill.), Tom Marino (R-Pa.) and Dave Joyce (R-Ohio), today sent the following letter to Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) requesting a mark-up of H.R. 3465, the Second Chance Reauthorization Act:
Dear Chairman Goodlatte:
We write to respectfully request that the House Judiciary Committee schedule a mark-up of the Second Chance Reauthorization Act (H.R. 3465).
As you know, the Over-Criminalization Task Force’s hearings have revealed several problems facing the criminal justice system. While many of these issues are complex and require novel legislative reforms that may be impracticable to introduce and move this session, the Judiciary Committee can and should use the remaining days left in session to ensure that initiatives with proven outcomes, like Second Chance, continue to protect public safety.
Since the Second Chance Act was signed into law by President Bush in 2008, over 90,000 men, women, and youth returning home from prisons, jails, and juvenile facilities have benefited from Second Chance grants providing career training, mentoring, family-based substance abuse treatment, and other evidence-based reentry programs.
This investment has paid off in public safety dividends. The enclosed reports from the National Reentry Resource Center highlight how numerous states have experienced drastic reductions in statewide recidivism rates as a result of robust reentry services made possible in part through Second Chance.
The outcomes are impressive, but state and local governments as well as non-profit organizations are in dire need of resources in order to ensure that the millions of individuals returning from prison, jail, and juvenile facilities each year continue to receive coordinated evidence-based reentry services.
As you know, we have made several improvements to the legislation. Underutilized or redundant programs have been cut, additional accountability measures have been added for grantees, the authorization level has been reduced from $160 million to $100 million per year, and the types of grants available to community and faith-based non-profits have been expanded. As a result, we have garnered significant bipartisan support in the House and Senate, and as evidenced in the enclosed letter, nearly 482 law enforcement, faith-based and other community organizations from across the country have endorsed the bill.
Our constituents understand that successful reentry means safer communities and are eager for Congress to take action to reauthorize this critical program.
Thank you for your leadership on this Committee and for your commitment to protect public safety through recidivism reduction programs. We look forward to working with you to advance this vital legislation.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) introduced the bipartisan USA FREEDOM Act in October, 2013. Last May, the House Judiciary Committee and the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence approved an amended version of the legislation unanimously. The House of Representatives then passed a further amended bill by a vote of 303-121.
In July, Chairman Leahy introduced a revised USA FREEDOM Act that reclaimed lost provisions from the original bill and strengthened privacy protections. It is endorsed by the Intelligence Community, the Administration and numerous technology companies and privacy groups.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid tonight filed for cloture on the measure. A vote is possible as early as next week.
Congressman Sensenbrenner: “Although far too many good bills continue to collect dust on Senator Reid’s desk, I am pleased he has finally decided to move the USA FREEDOM Act. There is no excuse not to pass this fundamental piece of legislation during the lame duck. Once the Senate acts, I encourage my colleagues in the House and the President to be prepared to promptly enact it into law. Senator Leahy and I introduced the USA FREEDOM Act over a year ago. It is past time for Washington to ensure Americans’ civil liberties are protected while preserving important intelligence gathering authorities that are vital to our national security.”Read More
A leading House lawmaker on Friday asked U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. to provide an array of documents and data relating to the Justice Department’s role in tens of thousands of cash and property seizures made in recent years by state and local police under federal civil asset forfeiture laws.
The request by Rep. F. James “Jim” Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Investigations, is part of an inquiry into the billions of dollars in seizures made through Justice’s Equitable Sharing Program, the federal government’s largest asset forfeiture initiative.
“While we must ensure law enforcement is properly equipped, they should not be funded by slush funds accrued by violating Americans’ civil liberties,” Sensenbrenner said in a statement Friday.
Sensenbrenner asked Holder for details about the policies governing such seizures and the standard of proof necessary before the federal government “adopts” a state or local seizure into the Equitable Sharing Program. Federal civil seizures can occur when police say they believe property is tied to crime through a preponderance of the evidence.
Sensenbrenner said he is concerned that local authorities turn to the Justice program when state civil asset forfeiture laws are stricter than the federal standards. He said he worries that police have sometimes trampled individual rights when making cash and property seizures without filing criminal charges.
“The implications on civil liberties are dire,” he said in the Oct. 24 letter. “The right to own property is a fundamental right implicitly recognized in the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. I also believe that it is a human right.”
Sensenbrenner’s request follows a Washington Post investigation that found that 61,998 cash seizures have been made on U.S. highways and elsewhere since 9/11 without search warrants or indictments through Equitable Sharing, totaling more than $2.5 billion.
Justice, Homeland Security and other federal agencies received $800 million of that total, and the rest went to states and localities.
Friday’s letter follows similar requests for documents from the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In those letters, Sensenbrenner sought details about how challenges from cash and property owners are handled.
Though owners can seek to get their property back through the federal courts, the cost is often prohibitive. Sensenbrenner noted that there is an administrative process for property owners but agency decisions there are “not subject to subsequent challenge.”
The Post investigation found that only about a sixth of the seizures were challenged. But in 41 percent of the challenged cases — more than 4,000 — the government agreed to return all or part of the money. The appeals process often took more than a year and required owners of the cash to sign agreements not to sue police over the seizures.
“Given these inherent conflicts, what procedures and protections exist to ensure fair adjudications of the claims and to protect against conflicts of interest?” Sensenbrenner wrote.
He told The Post in a statement that the asset forfeiture system “raises serious Constitutional and ethical red flags. I strongly believe this deserves scrutiny and aggressive Congressional oversight.”
View online, here
Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) today continued his oversight of civil asset forfeiture, sending the below letter to Attorney General Eric Holder regarding federal adoption.
On October 16, Congressman Sensenbrenner sent oversight letters to the Administrator of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and the Acting Director of the Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency requesting information on each agency’s participation in the Department of Justice’s asset forfeiture program, specifically their processes for administrative review of property seizures.
Dear Attorney General Holder:
Federal adoption occurs when a federal agency adopts a seizure from a state or local law enforcement agency and proceeds with federal forfeiture. Numerous Department of Justice (DOJ or Department) entities are authorized to adopt state and local seizures. Under the Department’s Equitable Sharing Program, DOJ will share up to 80 percent of forfeited funds with the seizing agency.
Federal adoptions have grown exponentially in recent years. From 2001 to 2013, state and local law enforcement made nearly 62,000 cash seizures without a warrant or criminal indictment through the Equitable Sharing Program. State and local authorities have received over $1.7 billion from these seizures while federal agencies have kept $800 million.
The Equitable Sharing Program is frequently criticized because it allows state and local police to ignore restrictions on civil asset forfeiture in their home states. In some cases, it gives them a direct financial incentive to do so. A 2011 study published in the Journal of Criminal Justice found that local and state police are in fact more likely to rely on the federal Equitable Sharing Program if they work in a state where civil forfeiture is more difficult or less rewarding. The disturbing conclusion is that local agency’s rely on the Equitable Sharing Program to circumvent state law.
The implications on civil liberties are dire. The right to own property is a fundamental right implicitly recognized in the Fourth, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments. I also believe that it is a human right.
Daniel Webster warned that “[g]ood intentions will be pleaded for every assumption of power.” With federal adoption, the federal government gives DOJ’s imprimatur to state cases and then shares proceeds of the forfeiture with the very law enforcement agency that seized the property. The conflict of interest for these state and local agencies is so stark, over a right so critical, that it screams for protections and redundancies of protections against abuse. It is therefore critical that the Department maintain clear standards regarding how its entities weigh and ultimately adopt state and local cases.
To help further understanding of the Department’s policies regarding federal adoption, please respond to the following questions by November 14, 2014.
• Please describe the federal adoption process from the time a state applies for adoption through a final decision.
• What percentage of state requests are ultimately adopted? What is the breakdown of adoptions among the Department’s law enforcement entities?
• To apply for federal adoption, a state or local agency must fill out Form Dag-71. The form requires an “immediate probable cause review” if certain specified conditions are not met. What does this review involve? Is the review always conducted prior to adoption when the specified conditions are not met?
• Seizures must be based on probable cause. What evidence does the Department require to ensure that the standard of proof has been met prior to adopting a seizure?
• Does a federal adoption represent a DOJ determination that there was probable cause to support the state or local seizure?
• What officials are authorized to approve a request for adoption?
With your response, please provide 25 samples of closed DEA and ATF case files. Please ensure that the files contain all the documents originally contained therein. Thank you for your prompt attention to this important issue.
2449 Rayburn HOB
Washington, DC 20515
F. James Sensenbrenner, Jr., (Jim), represents the Fifth Congressional District of Wisconsin. The Fifth District includes parts of Milwaukee, Dodge and Waukesha counties, and all of Washington and Jefferson counties.
Jim was born in Chicago and later moved to Wisconsin with his family. He graduated from the Milwaukee Country Day School and did his undergraduate studies at Stanford University, where he majored in political science. He then earned his law degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1968.
After serving ten years in the Wisconsin State Legislature, Jim ran for a U.S. House seat and was elected in November, 1978. He has been reelected since 1980.
Jim’s current committee assignments include serving on the Committee on Science and Technology and the Committee on the Judiciary. Congressman Sensenbrenner is Chairman of the Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security and Oversight Subcommittee. He is also a member of the Subcommittee on Courts, Intellectual Property, and Internet, and the Subcommittees on Environment and Oversight.
He is the former Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and as a long-serving committee member, Jim has established a strong record on crime, intellectual property and constitutional issues. Previously, Jim also served as Chairman of the House Committee on Science, where he solidified his reputation as an independent leader on science issues, as well as oversight.
Throughout his public life, Jim has been at the forefront of efforts to preserve the sanctity of life, eliminate wasteful government spending and protect the interests of American taxpayers. He has regularly been cited by the National Taxpayers Union as one of the most fiscally responsible House Members and is well known for completing his financial disclosure forms down to the penny.
Jim is proud of his many legislative achievements that have helped improve the lives of many during his tenure in Congress.
In 1977, Jim married Cheryl Warren of Green Bay, Wisconsin, a staunch advocate for the rights of the disabled. They have two adult children, Frank and Bob. In his free time, Jim enjoys watching the Packers and reading.
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President Obama Awards Army First Lieutenant Alonzo H. Cushing the Medal of Honor: http://t.co/aUoCBEebHw