In an unusual display of unity from the divided, do-nothing House, a bipartisan group of lawmakers pushed through a bill that basically says, yes, the Fourth Amendment applies to electronic communications, too.
The measure, whose chief sponsors are Jim Sensenbrenner, Republican of Wisconsin, Zoe Lofgren, Democrat of California, and Thomas Massie, Republican of Kentucky, passed by a vote of 293-to-123 late Thursday night. It bars the National Security Agency, the Central intelligence Agency and other spy agencies from examining without a warrant Americans’ emails and other communications that were swept up into databases created to target foreigners.
The intelligence services argue that these communications are collected legally, under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, but they have never adequately explained why they cannot seek a warrant to go through them. The bill also prohibits the government from requiring a private company to alter its software to allow clandestine surveillance.
As Charlie Savage pointed out in his article today, the bill has a long way to go before it could ever become law. The intelligence agencies are already protesting, as are some members of Congress who seem overly concerned about preserving the governments’ ability to spy on its citizens without any judicial restraint or supervision.
But it is reassuring to know that lawmakers in the House are determined to impose limitations on our intelligence agencies, which have gone far beyond the parameters of the original Patriot Act, not to mention the Constitution, in their surveillance tactics.
Mr. Sensenbrenner, who introduced the 2001 Patriot Act, has been among the most vocal in making the point that it not intended to create the ability to collect, store and sift through any communication whatsoever at any time whatsoever, regardless of whether the surveillance was actually in the service of a concrete counter-terrorism operation.
Intelligence agencies aren’t supposed to open and read Americans’ physical mail without a warrant but have been trying to persuade the public of the notion that electronic communications are for some reason totally different. Apparently a majority of lawmakers in the House isn’t buying that logic anymore.View online, here. Read More
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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.
Is the administration considering locations in WI to house illegal immigrants? http://t.co/47tAtI58AZ
Sensenbrenner Op-ed: President Barack Obama created the border crisis http://t.co/Oy0rANuaCL