Friday, November 17, 2017

CONYERS: In Honor Of Our Veterans - Resource Fair, November 18, 2017

55 Best Photos And Pictures Of Veterans Day 2016On Saturday, November 18, 2017, from 11:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. Piquette Square, 6221 Brush Street, Detroit, Michigan 48202, Congressman John Conyers, Jr. wil hold a veteran resource fair in honor of veterans, active duty military and family members are invited to engage with representatives from:

  • Federal & State Government Agencies; 
  • Housing & Health Services; 
  • Employment & Education Assistance; 
  • Food Assistance; 
  • Veteran Service Organizations; 
  • Benefits & Claims Assistance; 
  • Medical Center & Community Resources.  
For additional information please call the Detroit Office: 3131-961-5670 the Westland Office: 734-675-4084.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2017

CONYERS: Why Nixon Should Have Been Impeached - 1974

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
RICHARD NIXON, like the President before him, was in a real sense a casualty of the Vietnam War, a war which I am ashamed to say was never declared. Since the hearings of the House Judiciary Committee began on May 9th, 1974, we have had a professional staff of some 89 men and women gather in great detail over 42 volumes of information that was considered throughout some 57 sessions. My analysis of the evidence clearly reveals an Administration so trapped by its own war policy and a desire to remain in office that it entered into an almost unending series of plans for spying, burglary and wiretapping, inside this country and against its own citizens, and without precedent in American history.

Let us turn back to 1969 when the war was still going on and the President authorized the bombing of infiltration routes that passed through two independent and sovereign nations, Cambodia and Laos. On May 9, 1969, shortly after the bombing began, William Beecher, the Pentagon correspondent for the New York Times, published a story disclosing that "American B-52 bombers in recent weeks have raided several Viet Cong and North Vietnamese supply dumps in Cambodia for the first time." That story triggered the beginning wiretaps and shortly thereafter, the Administration embarked upon a program of illegal surveillance involving both members of the press and of the Government.

And so this secret war in Cambodia, which seemed at first incidental as I studied the record before us, has emerged as the starting point which enables me to understand the tremendous amount of surveillance and spying and burglary that has characterized the evidence and this Administration, and led to eventual impeachment proceedings.

THE JUDICIARY Committee undertook its impeachment inquiry with a clear recognition of the gravity of its responsibility to the Congress and the Constitution. Our task was unique in modern history and complicated by the sheer weight of the evidence to be evaluated. But the process of impeachment is not, and was never intended to be, familiar, convenient, or comfortable. It was framed with the intention that it be used only as a last constitutional resort against the danger of executive tyranny. The Congress should not lightly interpose its judgment between the President and the people who elect him, but we cannot avoid our duty to protect the people from "a long train of Abuses and Usurpations."

The articles of impeachment recommended by the Judiciary Committee, although narrowly drawn, are fully consistent with our constitutional responsibility. There is clear and convincing proof that Richard Nixon violated his oath of office and committed high crimes and misdemeanors which jeopardized the liberties of the people. In calling him to account, we also re-establish the proper parameters of presidential conduct. It is essential, therefore, that the record of our inquiry be complete so that no future president may infer that we have implicitly sanctioned what we have not explicitly condemned.

President Nixon's determination to extend the Vietnam War throughout Indochina led him to conclude that the infiltration of men and supplies through Cambodia and Laos had to be interdicted. This could have been done by bombing North Vietnam, but at the cost of destroying the fragile Paris Peace talks, then in progress. His only recourse, given his assumptions, was to bomb the supply routes in Cambodia which led into South Vietnam At the same time, he apparently realized that public disclosure of such bombing would create a firestorm of Congressional and public protest.
The logic of the White House becomes clear: Vietnamization required the bombing of Cambodia, which in turn required secrecy at all costs. The pressures of concealment led in turn to a spirit of distrust within the administration which spread as the President and his aides became increasingly enmeshed in the snare of lies and half-truths they had themselves created. Having decided that the People and the Congress could not be trusted with the truth, Mr. Nixon's distrust was soon extended to his own foreign policy advisors and assistants.

The authorization and concealment of the Cambodian bombing, and the means he employed to prevent its disclosure, illustrated in the very first months of his administration that the President was prepared to do anything he considered necessary to achieve his objectives. To defend both the bombing and the subsequent wiretapping, he invoked the concept of national security, a convenient rationalization to be used whenever the occasion demanded an explanation for some concealed governmental conduct. The imperial presidency of Richard Nixon came to rely on this claim as a cloak for clandestine activity, and as an excuse for consciously and repeatedly deceiving the Congress and the people.

NIXON TURNED on his critics with a vengeance, apparently not appreciating that others could strenuously disagree with him without being either subversive or revolutionary. He took full advantage of the FBI's willingness to invade people's private lives without legal justification and without regard for their civil liberties. This willingness was documented during Congressional Black Caucus hearings on governmental lawlessness in June, 1972, which revealed that the files of the FBI and the Secret Service are laden with unverified information, often inaccurate and slanderous, on thousands of citizens, particularly blacks, who have had the temerity to speak out against racism, injustice, or the Indochina war. This surveillance of government critics by the FBI began, of course, before Mr. Nixon took office, but his administration gave renewed approval to some of the ugliest abuses of governmental power.

Obsessed by the notion that the disruptive activities of the blacks and students who criticized him were receiving foreign support, he repeatedly demanded that the FBI and CIA conduct extensive investigations to verify this potential conspiracy. But, even with additional authority conferred on these agencies, their reports continually indicated that his fears were unfounded. The inability of the FBI and CIA to substantiate the President's conviction that many of his critics were engaged in subversion or international conspiracy led him to increasingly question their operational efficiency.
Hence, the President's approval of the Huston plan in July, 1970, represented nothing more than an extension of an already demonstrated willingness to harass and spy on his political opponents. Even if the Huston plan itself was subsequently tabled, its spirit lived on in the White House and soon took tangible form with attempts to use the Internal Revenue Service for discriminatory personal and political purposes, and with the activities of the Plumbers unit.

The Plumbers put the essence of the Huston plan into practice and provided the President with his own secret intelligence force to investigate his critics and discredit them by any means possible, without even the most elementary regard for individual privacy or public morality.

With the assistance of the President's closest advisors, the Plumbers violated the charter of the Central Intelligence Agency by seeking CIA assistance to impugn the integrity of Senator Edward Kennedy, and to assess the administration's potential vulnerability from ITT's Dita Beard, whose confidential memo implied that a bribe had been offered to settle the ITT antitrust case.

They sought to discredit the Democratic party by falsifying State Department cables to implicate President Kennedy in the assassination of South Vietnamese President Diem. They broke into the Los Angeles office of Dr. Fielding in an attempt to gain medical information that would defame Daniel Ellsberg and, through him, the critics of the President's war policies.

In these ways, and perhaps in other ways still undisclosed, they violated every canon of morality and legality which stood between them and their goal of discrediting and undermining the President's "enemies".

THESE ACTIVITIES demonstrate that the break-in and bugging of the Democratic National Committee, and the subsequent cover-up specified in Article I, were not inexplicable aberrations from a standing presidential policy of strict adherence to the law. Instead, in proper perspective, the Watergate break-in emerges as only one incident in a continuous course of conduct which had its origins in the first months following President Nixon's inauguration.

The subsequent concealment was intended not merely to protect the White House from its complicity in the Watergate incident itself, but to avoid disclosure of the entire train of illegal and abusive conduct that characterized the Nixon presidency:

-Obstruction of justice;
-Perjury and subornation of perjury;
-Offers of executive clemency;
-Attempts to influence a federal judge;
-Destruction of evidence;
-Disclosure of secret grand jury proceedings;
-Withholding information of criminal activity;
-Impoundment of Congressional appropriations;
-Willful tax evasion;
-Possible bribery in connection with the ITT antitrust and milk price support decisions;
-And interference with the lawful activities of the CIA, FBI, IRS, Special Prosecutor, House Banking and Currency Committee, Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities, and finally, the House Judiciary Committee.

In these ways, the President sought to avert disclosure of a seamless web of illegality and impropriety.

That cover-up continued to the end, in that the President attempted to deceive the Congress and the American people by concealing and misrepresenting his knowledge and participation in these activities, and even while resigning, refusing to admit his complicity. Additionally, he withheld necessary information from the Special Prosecutors and fired Special Prosecutor Cox for his efforts to fully discharge his responsibilities. He refused to comply with the legal and proper subpoenas of the Judiciary Committee, as charged in Article III. He mutilated and destroyed evidence in his possession or caused that to happen, and did very nearly everything in his power to impede, delay, and obstruct the proper course of justice.

In my judgment, this course of presidential conduct, outlined above and specified in Articles I, II, and III, provides irrefutable evidence that Richard Nixon was not fit to enjoy the trust and authority which reposes in the Presidency of the United States.

But of at least equal importance is the uncontroverted evidence that Mr. Nixon authorized an illegal war against the sovereign nation of Cambodia, and sought to protect himself from criticism and possible repudiation by engaging in deliberate policies of concealment, deception, and misrepresentation.

On July 30, 1974, I proposed the following article of impeachment:

In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, in violation of his constitutional oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in disregard of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, on and subsequent to March 16, 1969, authorized, ordered and ratified the concealment from the Congress of the facts and the submission to the Congress of false and misleading statements concerning the existence, scope and nature of American bombing operations in Cambodia in derogation of the power of the Congress to declare war, to make appropriations, and to raise and support armies, and by such conduct warrants impeachment and trial and removal from office.

Although this article was not recommended by the Committee, it is fully supported by the facts and the Constitution.

The President of the United States must exercise only those powers which are legally and constitutionally his to exercise, and, by his actions, he must demonstrate due respect for the democratic rights of the people and the constitutional responsibilities of the Congress. The manner in which the Cambodian bombing was initiated, conducted, and reported clearly exceeded the constitutional powers of the presidency, and presented indisputable evidence of impeachable conduct.
President Nixon unilaterally initiated and authorized a campaign of bombing against the neutral nation of Cambodia. For the next four years, he continually deceived the Congress and the American people as to when the bombing began and how far it extended. In so doing, he exceeded his constitutional power as commander-in-chief. He usurped the power of the Congress to declare war, and he expended monies for a purpose not authorized or approved by the Congress. In so doing, he also denied the people of the United States their right to be fully informed about the actions and policies of their elected officials.

It is important to note that the facts pertinent to the Cambodian bombing are not in question. On 11 February 1969, General Creighton Abrams, Commander of the United States Military Assistance Command Vietnam, recommended and requested authorization to conduct bombing strikes in Cambodia. Between 12 February and 17 March 1969, this request was considered by the President in meetings of the National Security Council. On 17 March 1969, President Nixon authorized the bombing of Cambodia.

The bombing began on 18 March 1969 and continued unabated until 15 August 1973. From 18 March 1969 to 1 May 1970, when the United States initiated ground combat operations in Cambodia, 3,695 B-52 sorties were conducted, during which a total of105,837 tons of bombs were dropped on Cambodia. From the beginning to the end of the bombing campaign in August, 1973,more than 150,000 sorties dropped in excess of 500,000 tons of bombs in Cambodia.

The bombing operations took the form of three different operations, code named "Menu Operation", "Patio", and "Freedom Deal". Under the procedure instituted for reporting "Menu Operation" bombing missions, the regular, operational reports prepared after each mission indicated that the strikes had taken place in South Vietnam rather than in Cambodia. Most "Patio" bombing missions were not reported at all; forty-eight "special" "Patio" strikes were reported as having occurred in Laos, rather than Cambodia. The "Freedom Deal" tactical air strikes began on 30 June 1970, the date on which the last contingent of American ground forces was withdrawn from Cambodia. These strikes were reported as having taken place in Cambodia, but in many cases, the targets of "Freedom Deal" strikes were not those which were authorized and reported.

SIMILARLY, THERE is no dispute that the President made a decision to keep the bombing secret. When President Nixon approved the first bombing strikes in Cambodia, he directed General Earle Wheeler, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to inform General Abrams that the bombing operations were not to be discussed with any unauthorized person, even though this meant circumventing the normal chain of command which would otherwise have included the Secretary of the Army, the Vice Chief of Staff for the Air Force, and the Commander of the Seventh Air Force.
The President's policy of concealment, deception, and misrepresentation was consistently reflected in his own public statements and in the Congressional testimony of his military and civilian subordinates.

In a nationally televised address on 14 May 1969, two months after the bombing in Cambodia began, the President stated, "1 have tried to present the facts about Vietnam with complete honesty, and I shall continue to do so in my reports to the American people."

At a news conference on 8 December 1969, the President asserted that the people of the United States were entitled to know everything they could with regard to any involvement of the United States abroad.

At another news conference on 21 March 1970, President Nixon declared that the United States would continue to "respect Cambodia's neutrality."

On 30 April 1970, when the President announced the American invasion of Cambodia, he reviewed previous American policy toward Cambodia in the following terms:

American policy since then has been to scrupulously respect the neutrality of the Cambodian people. We have maintained a skeleton diplomatic mission of fewer than 15in Cambodia's capitol, and that only since last August. For the previous 4 years, from1965 to 1969, we did not have any diplomatic mission whatever in Cambodia. And for the past 5 years, we have provided no military assistance whatever and no economic assistance to Cambodia. For 5 years, neither the United States nor South Vietnam has moved against these enemy sanctuaries because we did not wish to violate the territory of a neutral nation. Even after the Vietnamese Communists began to expand these sanctuaries 4 weeks ago, we counseled patience to our South Vietnamese allies and imposed restraints on our own commanders.

On 30 June 1970, the President released a report entitled "The Cambodian Operation" which stated in part:

For five years. North Vietnam has used Cambodian territory as a sanctuary from which to attack allied forces in South Vietnam. For five years, American and allied forces - to preserve the concept of Cambodian neutrality and to confine the conflict in Southeast Asia - refrained from moving against these sanctuaries.

The evidence is unmistakeable, therefore, that President Nixon personally and directly lied to the American people by repeatedly concealing the fact that the United States had begun to bomb Cambodia in March, 1969.

THE PRESIDENT'S public assurances were complemented by the erroneous and misleading statements made to the Congress by his civilian and military subordinates. Such statements were made by the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Army, the Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of the Air Force in testimony before the Senate Committee on Armed Services, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the Senate Committee on Appropriations, and the House Committee on Appropriations.

For example, on 27 April 1970, Secretary of State Rogers testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, declaring that, "Cambodia is one country where we can say with complete assurance that our hands are clean and our hearts are pure . . . Our best policy is to be as quiet as possible, to avoid any action which appears to violate the neutrality of Cambodia."

For example, on 16 April 1970, Secretary of the Army Resor testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee that there had been no "U.S. military aid and no Army support for Cambodia" since January, 1964.

For example, on 31 March 1971, Secretary of the Air Force Seamans was requested by the Senate Armed Services Committee to submit a report on American bombing missions in Indochina. Seamans subsequently submitted a classified report which indicated that no bombing strikes had been conducted in Cambodia prior to 1 May 1970, even though bombing strikes had actually begun in March, 1969.

It was not until 16 July 1973 that Secretary of Defense Schlesinger was forced to confirm earlier disclosures to the Senate Armed Services Committee that the United States had bombed Cambodia, a sovereign and neutral nation, before May, 1970.

Richard Nixon authorized the bombing of Cambodia. In a series of subsequent public statements, he deliberately and intentionally lied to the American people. And in their testimony before duly authorized committees of the Congress, his civilian and military subordinates failed to testify fully and accurately. Whether his subordinates deceived the Congress intentionally or unintentionally, the fact remains that the President must have known that they testified inaccurately, and he made no attempt to correct the record.

BY HIS SECRET bombing of Cambodia, President Nixon unquestionably exceeded his powers as commander-in-chief, for not even the most tortured interpretation of Article II, Section 2 could support a war begun and pursued in secrecy. He also violated Sections 7 and 8 of Article I, which give to the Congress the authority to make appropriations and declare war. For the "power of the purse" to have any meaning, the Congress must know how the money it appropriates is spent.
By conducting a war without the knowledge of the Congress, President Nixon further eroded whatever remains of the constitutional power of the Congress to decide when and where the United States shall be at war. We cannot sanction such a policy of deliberate deception, intended to nullify the constitutional powers of the Congress to legislate for the people we represent.

By the same policies of secrecy and deception, Richard Nixon also violated a principal tenet of democratic government: that the President, like every other elected official, is accountable to the people.

For how can the people hold their President to account if he deliberately and consistently lies to them? The people cannot judge if they do not know, and President Nixon did everything within his power to keep them in ignorance. In all good conscience, we must condemn his deception regarding Cambodia with the same fervor and outrage we condemn his deception regarding Watergate.
The difficult question is not whether the secret bombing of Cambodia constitutes impeachable conduct. That is too obvious to require further argument.

Instead, the question we must ponder is, why the Congress has not called Mr. Nixon to judgment for the bombing of Cambodia? The painful answer is that condemning the Cambodian bombing would also have required us to indict previous administrations and to admit that the Congress has failed to fully meet its own constitutional obligations.

WHETHER INTENTIONALLY or not, the Congress has participated in the degeneration of its power to declare war. Although a War Powers Act was passed recently, over the veto of President Nixon, no legislation is self-executing. Whatever its limitations and faults, this legislation, and the constitutional provisions on which it is based, will only have meaning to the extent that the Congress invests them with meaning. Instead of merely ratifying the decisions and recommendations of the executive branch, the Congress must demonstrate that it is once again prepared to play an active and constructive role in the formulation of foreign policy - in the creation of policies which will direct this nation toward war or peace.

If this is truly to be a representative government, then the people's representatives in Congress must no longer allow any one person to decide unilaterally when, where, and why Americans shall die violent deaths or kill others. The Congress may not be subject to impeachment, but it is subject to emasculation.

We must directly confront the fact that the secret bombing of Cambodia is only the most recent and egregious illustration of the disintegration of the war power of Congress, and that the Congress has participated in this process, wittingly or unwittingly.

If, during the impeachment proceeding, we have failed to learn this lesson, then we deserve the obloquy, not the gratitude, of the people of the United States. If we do not now fully dedicate ourselves to regaining every bit of constitutional ground we have surrendered, then - to paraphrase one of the President's men - we shall have lost our constitutional and moral compass.

IT HAS FREQUENTLY been argued during the past weeks that the Committee's inquiry and the President's subsequent resignation demonstrate that "the system works." But such satisfaction or complacency is misguided. We must recognize that we were presented with a seemingly endless series of public revelations and presidential actions which did more to undermine Mr. Nixon's position than any independent investigation undertaken by this Committee or its staff.

The Congressional inquiry has been the beneficiary of literally years of work by investigative reporters, the Special Prosecutor's office, and the Senate Select Committee on Presidential Campaign Activities. And most importantly, the President himself documented his words and actions through his secret taping system, without which our inquiry might never have even been begun. The President himself did more than anyone or anything to insure his removal from office.

If the system has worked, it has worked by accident and good fortune. It would be gratifying to conclude that the House, charged with the sole power of impeachment, exercised vigilance and acted on its own initiative. However, we would be deluding ourselves if we did not admit that this inquiry was forced on us by an accumulation of disclosures which, finally and after unnecessary delays, could no longer be ignored.

Perhaps, ironically, and certainly unintentionally, we have ourselves jeopardized the future of the impeachment process. Before this inquiry, the prospect of impeaching a president was disquieting because it had not been attempted in more than a century. Now with our inquiry as a precedent, future Congresses may recoil from ever again exercising this power. They may read the history of our work and conclude that impeachment can never again succeed unless another President demonstrates the same, almost uncanny ability to impeach himself.

If this is our legacy, our future colleagues may well conclude that ours has been a pyrrhic victory, and that impeachment will never again justify the agony we have endured. It is imperative, therefore, that we speak to them clearly: impeachment is difficult and it is painful, but the courage to do what must be done is the price of remaining free.

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U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Examines Special Counsel Under Watergate

During the Nixon administration, the Ethics in Governance Act of 1978 was created to establish the U.S. Office of Government Ethics and Special Counsel appointment procedure during Watergate investigation.

Conference report filed in House (10/11/1978)

(Conference report filed in House, H. Rept. 95-1756)

Ethics in Government Act - 

=Title I: Legislative Personnel Financial Disclosure Requirements=

- Requires each Member of Congress, each Congressional officer and employee who is compensated at a rate equal to or more than the pay rate for grade GS-16, and any candidate for the office of Member to file an annual financial disclosure report (hereinafter referred to as "report") containing specified information including: (1) sources amounts of income, gifts, and reimbursements; (2) the identity and approximate value of property held and liabilities owed; (3) transactions in property, commodities, and securities; and (4) certain financial interests of a spouse or dependent.

Provides that such report be filed with the Clerk of the House of Representatives or the Secretary of the Senate, for the employee's respective House. Directs the Clerk and the Secretary to: (1) send a copy of each report of a Member or candiate to the appropriate State officer of their State; (2) submit each report for review by either the Committee of Official Conduct of the House or the Select Committee on Ethics of the Senate; and (3) make such reports generally available to the public.

Prohibits the use of information from such reports for commercial, credit, or solicitation purposes, or for any unlawful purpose.

Authorizes the Attorney General to bring civil actions in any appropriate district court against individuals who knowingly and willfully falsify or fail to file or report specified information required under this Act.

Authorizes such courts to assess against such individuals civil penalties not to exceed $5,000.

Requires the Comptroller General to report to Congress on the effectiveness of the implementation of this Title and the feasibility of conducting random audits of such reports.

=Title II: Executive Personnel Financial Disclosure Requirements=

- Requires the President, Vice President, each presidential or vice- presidential candidate, each military officer rated at 0-7 or higher, each presidential appointee whose Senate confirmation is pending, and each employee of the Executive branch who is compensated at a pay rate equal to or greater than that for grade GS-16 to file such report as described in Title I of this Act which shall include additional information regarding positions held with business entities, and agreements with respect to future employment and continuation of payments by former employers.

Excludes political campaign funds, including campaign receipts and expenditures, from such reports.
Authorizes the Attorney General to bring civil actions and district courts to assess civil penalties similar to those in Title I against individuals for failure to file or falsifying reports. Requires the head of each agency, each Secretary concerned, and the Director of the Office of Government Ethics to refer to the Attorney General the name of any individual they have reasonable cause to believe has willfully failed to file a report or willfully falsified or failed to file required information. Authorizes the President, the Vice President, the Secretary concerned, and the head of each agency or the Civil Service Commission to take appropriate personnel or other action in accordance with applicable law or regulation against any individual failing to report information required to be reported.

Requires that such reports be made generally available to the public, with specified exceptions for certain individuals involved in intelligence activities.

Prohibits the use of information from such reports as described in Title I. Authorizes the Attorney General to bring civil actions against persons who obtain or use such reports for such prohibited purposes. Authorizes courts in which such actions are brought to assess against such persons penalties not to exceed $5,000 in any one case. Stipulates that such remedy shall be in addition to any other remedy available under statutory or common law.

Requires that reports be reviewed within 60 days of filing. Establishes procedures to notify individuals of their noncompliance and to assist them in complying with the requirements of this Act.
Permits the President to require officers and employees in the executive branch not covered by this title to submit confidential reports.

Permits the Director of the Office of Government Ethics to require by rule disclosure of gifts received by dependent children of reporting individuals if such information does not exceed that required of spouses.

Requires that the Comptroller General have access to executive personnel financial disclosure reports in order to carry out statutory responsibilities.

=Title III: Judicial Personnel Financial Disclosure Requirements=

- Requires the Chief Justice and the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court, each Federal court judge, judges of the courts of the District of Columbia, any presidential nominee for judicial office whose Senate confirmation is pending, and each judicial employee who is compensated at a pay rate equal to or greater than that for grade GS-16 to file such report as described in Title II.

Directs the Judicial Conference of the United States to establish a Judicial Ethics Committee to: (1) receive such reports of judicial personnel; (2) monitor compliance with this Title; (3) provide for the availability of such reports to the public; (4) develop the method of determining the value of assets required to be disclosed under this Title; and (5) review such reports to ascertain possible violations of conflict of interest laws.

Authorizes the Attorney General to bring civil actions and the courts to assess civil penalties similar to those in Title I and II against individuals failing to file or falsifying reports. Requires the Committee to refer the names of such individuals to the Attorney General.

Prohibits the use of information from such reports as described in Title I. Authorizes the Attorney General to bring civil actions against persons who obtain or use such reports for such prohibited purposes. Authorizes courts in which such actions are brought to assess against such persons penalties not to exceed $5,000 in any one case. Stipulates that such remedy shall be in addition to any other remedy available under statutory or common law.

=Title IV: Office of Government Ethics=

- Establishes in the Office of Personnel Management the Office of Government Ethics, with a Director to be appointed by the President, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate.
Requires the Director to provide overall direction of executive branch policies related to preventing specified conflicts of interest on the part of officers and employees of any executive agency. Stipulates certain responsibilities of the Director.

Requires the Director to consult, when appropriate, with affected executive agencies and the Attorney General in the development of policies, rules, regulations, procedures, and forms.

Requires the Director to develop and recommend and the Office of Personnel Management to promulgate a regulation establishing a method for readily determining, without the necessity for expert appraisal, the fair market value of assets required to be disclosed by this Act.

Directs each executive agency to: (1) make its services, personnel, and facilities available to the Director to the greatest practicable extent for the performance of functions under this Act; and (2) except when prohibited by law, furnish to the Director all necessary information and records in its possession.

Requires the Commission to issue its rules and regulations pertaining to financial disclosure, conflict of interest, and ethics in the Executive branch in accordance with the Administrative Procedure Act. Allows any person to seek judicial review of any such rule or regulation.

Authorizes the appropriation to carry out this Title of $2,000,000 for each of five fiscal years beginning with fiscal year 1979.

=Title V: Post-Employment Conflict of Interest=

- Extends from one to two years the period of prohibition on appearances before an agency by former Federal employees or officials or commissioned officers in the uniformed services at specified salary levels on matters that were under such persons responsibilities. Includes within such prohibition informal as well as formal contacts. Prohibits formal and informal contacts with such agencies by former employees on other matters for a period of one year after the end of such employment.
Exempts from the prohibition on contact with their former agency: (1) scientific personnel, if their communication is solely to furnish scientific and technical information; and (2) persons in specified positions designated by the Director of the Office of Government Ethics.

=Title VI: Amendments to Title 28, United States Code=

- Requires the Attorney General to investigate all specific allegations of Federal criminal law violations other than petty offenses, by specified individuals, including: (1) the President, Vice President, individuals at specified salary levels in the Executive Office of the President and the Department of Justice, any Assistant Attorney General, the Director and Deputy Director of Central Intelligence, and the Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service; (2) all such specified individuals who held office during the incumbency of the President or during the period the last preceding President held office, if such preceding President was of the same political party as the incumbent President; and (3) any officer of the principal national campaign committee seeking the election or reelection of the President.

Requires the Attorney General to decide within 90 days whether the matter warrants further investigation or prosecution and if so, directs him to apply to the division of the U.S. Courts of Appeals responsible for the appointment of a special prosecutor.

Enumerates the authority and duties of a special prosecutor. Gives a special prosecutor all the investigative and prosecutorial functions and powers of the Department except those which specifically require the Attorney General's personal action.

Authorizes the special prosecutor to make public or send to Congress any statements or reports on his activities as special prosecutor he deems appropriate. Requires the special prosecutor to report to the division of the court at the conclusion of such special prosecutor duties.

Permits the special prosecutor to advise the House of Representatives of any substantial and credible information which may constitute grounds for impeachment of the President, Vice President, or a justice or judge of the United States.

Provides a procedure whereby specified Members of Congress can request that a special prosecutor may only be removed from office by impeachment and conviction, or by the Attorney General for extraordinary improperieties, physical disability, mental incapacity, or any other condition that substantially impairs performance. Permits the division of the court to terminate an office of special prosecutor at any time on the grounds that the investigations and prosecutions of such prosecutor have been completed.

Requires the Department of Justice to suspend all investigations and proceedings regarding any matter which is in the prosecutorial jurisdiction of a special prosecutor or which has been accepted by a special prosecutor under this Title, except to the extent required by this Title or insofar as such special prosecutor agrees in writing that such investigations or proceedings may be continued.

Allows the Attorney General or the Solicitor General to make a presentation as amicus curiae to any court as to issues of law raised by any case or proceeding or appeal in which a special prosecutor participates.

Terminates the provisions of this Act which pertain to a special prosecutor five years after the date on which this Act takes effect.

Authorizes to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to be held by the Department as a contingent fund for the use of any special prosecutor appointed pursuant to this Act.

Requires the Chief Justice of the United States to assign three judges or justices for two-year periods to a division of the court to be the court for the appointment of special prosecutors. Requires the Chief Justice to assign three circuit court judges or justices, one of whom shall be a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia, to such division of the court.

Requires the Attorney General to promulgate rules requiring any officer or employee of the Department, including a United States Attorney, to disqualify himself from participation in a particular investigation or prosecution if such participation may result in a personal, financial, or political conflict of interests or the appearance of such conflict.

Requires the Attorney General to report annually to Congress on the activities and operations of the Public Integrity Section and related investigations and prosecutions by any other units of the Department of Justice.

=Title VII: Senate Legal Counsel=

- Establishes an Office of Senate Legal Counsel.

Sets forth procedures for the appointment of a Senate Legal Counsel and a Deputy Senate Legal Counsel.

Makes the Office directly accountable to the Joint Leadership Group established under this Act.
Directs the Office to defend the Senate, a Member, officer, or employee of the Senate, or any agency or committee of the Senate if so authorized by a two-thirds vote of the Joint Leadership Group or by the adoption of a resolution by the Senate. Directs the Office to bring a civil action to enforce a Senate or committee or subcommittee subpoena only when directed to do so by the adoption of a resolution by the Senate. Directs the Office to intervene or appear as amicus curiae in the name of the Senate or of an officer, committee or subcommittee (or chair thereof) of the Senate. Directs the Office to serve as the duly authorized representative, in obtaining an order granting immunity under the Organized Crime Control Act, of: (1) the Senate, by an affirmative vote of a majority of Members present; or (2) a Senate committee or subcommittee, by an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the Members of the full committee.

Provides that the expenses of the Office shall be paid from the contingent fund of the Senate.

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CONYERS: Statement Of House Judiciary Markup Of H.R. 170, "Protect And Grow American Jobs Act"

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
H.R. 170, the “Protect and Grow American Jobs Act,” as introduced, would increase the wage level that H-1B dependent employers must pay to avoid jumping through certain hoops in the H-1B immigrant visa program.  These are employers who heavily rely on foreign workers and have 15 percent or more of their workforce on H-1B visas. 

I did not support a predecessor bill last Congress because I did not believe it went far enough to prevent abuses in the H-1B program that have led to the displacement of American workers. 

Academics, labor unions, and the high skilled workers they represent have long argued that the H-1B program is used by employers to replace U.S. workers with lower paid foreign H-1B workers and that the program is in need of fundamental reforms.

Today we will be considering a substitute amendment negotiated by Ms. Lofgren and Mr. Issa, that will improve the bill and serve as a first step in curbing abuse of the H-1B program.  Although this amendment does not fix the many problems in the H-1B program, it will reign in some of the most egregious abuses perpetrated by H-1B dependent employers.

The amendment increases the wages that must be paid by dependent employers to H-1B workers who will be placed with other employers.  By requiring that such workers receive at least the average wage in the relevant occupation and area of employment, the amendment prevents H-1B dependent companies from severely undercutting U.S. workers.

The amendment also provides the Department of Labor with the authority to conduct random audits to ensure compliance with these and other new requirements and establishes new norms in this temporary worker program. I hope these reforms will be expanded to the entire H-1B program and other temporary worker programs.
Going forward I believe several additional matters can be addressed.   The current H-1B law fails to protect workers’ rights and labor standards.  In fact, most H-1b employers do not even need to attest that they first tried to recruit an available, qualified U.S. worker or promise that they will not displace existing U.S. workers. In addition, current law also provides an economic incentive for employers to misuse the H-1B program as a way to cut labor costs because they can pay H-1B employees as low as the 17th percentile of an occupational wage in a given area.

I look forward to working with my colleagues on broader reforms to the H-1B program.  

I thank the Chairman and yield back the balance of my time.

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CONYERS: Sessions Testimony Leaves Concerns About Independence & Integrity Of DOJ

At DOJ Oversight Hearing, Sessions Refuses to Answer Questions & “Cannot Recall” Russia Details

Attorney General Refuses to Push Back on Pressure from White House; Stands by Weak Civil Rights Record; Hedges on Special Counsel for Clinton; Admits to Taking No Action to Protect U.S. Elections

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Department of Justice Attorney General Jeff Sessions testified before the House Judiciary Committee for the first time during its annual oversight hearing. Every Attorney General before Attorney General Sessions has testified before the House Judiciary Committee during their first six months of taking office.

Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-MI) issued the following statement after the hearing:

“The Attorney General’s testimony today leaves me with grave concerns about the independence and integrity of the Department of Justice.  Attorney General Sessions paid lip service to the rule of law—but hedged his bets on the appointment of a special counsel to investigate President Trump’s political enemies.  I take little comfort in his testimony suggesting that the Department does not yet have a factual basis to pursue these charges.  The Department of Justice shouldn’t act this way to begin with.

“The Attorney General could not give us a straight answer on any of President Trump’s attacks on the Department or attempts to distract from the Russia investigation.  He stood by his record on voter ID laws and other measures designed to discriminate against minorities.  He freely admitted that he has done nothing to protect America’s next elections from foreign influence.  He also offered no clarification whatsoever on his shifting Russia testimony, except to say that he ‘did not lie’ and ‘cannot recall’ any key details.”

AG Sessions Responded “I Do Not Recall” to Dozens of Questions

Throughout the hearing, Attorney General (AG) Sessions avoided taking responsibility for his own statements, claiming a foggy memory about most aspects of contacts involving the Russian government. AG Sessions said “I did not lie” but refused to correct the record on his previous Senate testimony when asked by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX).  AG Sessions acknowledged that he was not sure what he told Papadopoulos regarding a possible Russia meeting. 

When pressed about Carter Page and his travels to Russia, Sessions replied, “No, I didn’t tell him not to go to Russia.  I didn’t recall [Page] saying that.  Am I supposed to stop him from taking the trip?”  AG Sessions also did not recall any discussions about changing the GOP platform regarding the Ukraine with Michael Flynn.

Attorney General Sessions Offered Little Clarity About a Second Special Counsel

Sessions could not explain why his involvement in a review of matters related to Hillary Clinton, James Comey, and Loretta Lynch for possible referral to a new special counsel does not violate the terms of his recusal. 

At his Senate confirmation hearing, he said:

“The proper thing for me to do would be to recuse myself from any questions . . . that involve Secretary Clinton and that were raised during the campaign.”

When Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) questioned Sessions today regarding the appointment of a second special counsel, Sessions responded that he believes that the Department has not yet established a factual basis that meets the standards of the appointments of a special counsel.  Rep. Jordan said it “looks like” wrongdoing took place.  AG Sessions responded: “‘Looks like’ is not enough basis to appoint a special counsel.” 

Sessions Refused to Answer Questions about Political Interference

Sessions refused to answer questions about whether President Trump could seek to fire Special Counsel Mueller. When asked about Steven Miller’s work on a letter describing the President’s motive for firing former FBI Director Comey, AG Sessions refused to answer—but also declined to invoke executive privilege.  Chairman Goodlatte refused Democratic efforts to compel an answer from the Attorney General.

Attorney General Sessions also would not answer questions regarding whether any one from the White House had contacted or attempted to influence DOJ regarding the AT&T/Time Warner merger, or efforts by Rupert Murdoch to purchase CNN. Before the hearing, Ranking Member Conyers and U.S. House Judiciary Antitrust Subcommittee Ranking Member David N. Cicilline (D-RI) pressed Chairman Goodlatte for a hearing on growing evidence of the Trump administration allowing politics to impact their review of mergers in the telecommunications and media industries. View the letter, below.

Attorney General Stands by Weak Civil Rights Record & Owns Election Security Failures

FBI Labeling of Black Activists 

When questioned by several Members, Attorney General Sessions said he had not seen the Black Identity Extremists memo released in August by the FBI and was unable to identify any current group that he would characterize as a “Black Identity Extremist.” The AG also was unable to identify any senior African-American staff in his office.

In October 2017, Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric L. Richmond and Ranking Members John Conyers, Jr. (Judiciary), Bennie G. Thompson (Homeland Security), and Elijah E. Cummings (Oversight) sent a letter to  FBI Director Christopher Wray, requesting to meet about the origins of the assessment and how it will be used, and expressed concern about the assessment given the FBI’s “troubling history” of targeting black citizens, including Martin Luther King, Jr., and other civil rights leaders. View the letter here.

Supporting Voter Suppression
AG Sessions said that he will continue to defend voter ID laws that have been found to intentionally discriminate against minorities.  Session said that he believes he can “properly” enforce the laws without explaining how he plans to do so.

Lack of Action to Protect Future American Elections
AG Sessions acknowledged that the Department of Justice has not taken steps to secure future elections, and admitted our Nation is not where it needs to be to defend against foreign interference.

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Tuesday, November 14, 2017

CONYERS: Statement On Oversight Of The U.S. Department Of Justice Hearing With Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

In the ordinary course of business, any one of a dozen topics related to the Department of Justice would be worthy of its own hearing.

And, to be clear, I would rather spend our time today discussing the upkeep of the criminal justice system, the enforcement of civil rights, and the work we must all do to ensure access to the ballot box.

Instead, we must spend our time debating the troubles of a wayward Administration: how the Attorney General conducts himself before Congress, how President Trump undermines the integrity of the justice system, and how the Department continues to ignore the oversight requests of this Committee.

Although this is the Attorney General’s first appearance before the House, he has already made three visits to our colleagues in the Senate.

At his confirmation hearing, he testified that he “did not have communications with the Russians.” 

Last month, he testified that “a continuing exchange of information between Trump’s surrogates and intermediaries for the Russian government . . . did not happen, at least to my knowledge, and not with me.”

We know now, of course, that neither of those statements is true.

Shortly after the Attorney General made the first comment, the Washington Post reported that he met with the Russian Ambassador at least twice during the campaign.

In the past month, we have also learned that the Attorney General must have been very much aware of a continuing exchange of information between the Trump campaign and the Russian government. 

In charging documents unsealed last month, George Papadopoulos—a foreign policy advisor to the Trump campaign—admits to extensive communications with Russian contacts.

At a March 31, 2016 meeting of the campaign’s National Security Advisory Committee—attended by candidate Trump, and chaired by Senator Sessions—Mr. Papadopoulos stated, “in sum and substance, that he had connections that could help arrange a meeting between then-candidate Trump and President Putin.”

It does not matter, as has been reported, that the Attorney General remembers this meeting after the fact—remembers it so vividly, in fact, that two unnamed sources say the Senator “shut George down.”

Under oath, knowing in advance that he would be asked about this subject, the Attorney General gave answers that were, at best, incomplete.

I hope the Attorney General can provide some clarification on this problem in his remarks today. I also hope that he can assure us that the Department is weathering near-daily attacks on its independence by President Trump—and that no office of the Department is being used to pressure the President’s political enemies.

In recent months, President Trump has attacked the “beleaguered” Attorney General, and criticized his “VERY weak position on Hillary Clinton crimes.”

The President has talked openly about firing the leadership of the Department—including the Attorney General, the Deputy Attorney General, the former Acting Director of the FBI, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

He did fire former FBI Director Comey—in his own words, “because of that Russia thing with Trump and Russia”—as well as acting Attorney General Sally Yates and all 46 sitting U.S. Attorneys.

Last year, he denigrated a federal judge because of his “Mexican heritage.”

Judge Curiel was born in Indiana, by the way.

Last month, in a radio interview, President Trump said he was “very unhappy” with the Justice Department. 

Hours later, he proclaimed the military justice system “a complete and total disgrace.”

But the one that sticks with me is the President’s July interview with the New York Times.

In that interview, he begins by, once again, attacking the Attorney General’s credibility. “Sessions never should have recused himself,” the President complains.

Then the conversation takes a sinister turn: “When Nixon came along . . . out of courtesy, the FBI started reporting to the Department of Justice.

But the FBI person really reports directly to the president of the United States.”

He goes on: “I could have ended [the Flynn investigation] just by saying—they say it can’t be obstruction because you can say, ‘It’s ended. It’s over. Period.’”

As is often the case, the President requires some correction.

The Director of the FBI reports directly to the Attorney General, and has since the founding of the Bureau.

It can be obstruction of justice, if the President orders an investigation closed with a corrupt motive.

But what strikes me about these comments is the President’s view that the criminal justice system serves him—and not the public.

President Trump seems to believe that, on a whim, he can bring pressure to bear on his enemies, dismiss charges against his allies, and insulate himself and his family from any consequence. I cannot overemphasize the danger this perspective poses to our republic.

I have served on this Committee long enough to remember another President who shared this view. I was, myself, on Richard Nixon’s enemies list.

And although we worked to hold that Administration accountable, our work is not complete.

We must all remember our common responsibility to prevent that kind of abuse from happening again. I will look to the Attorney General’s partnership in this effort—but I have begun to worry about his resolve.

Last night, in a letter sent by the Department to Chairman Goodlatte—without so much as a copy to the Ranking Member, by the way—the Assistant Attorney General seems to leave the door open to appointing a new special counsel to cater to the President’s political needs.

The fact that this letter was sent to the Majority, without the customary and appropriate notice to me, indicates that the charge given to Department officials to evaluate these issues has political motivations.

Now, in his own words, the Attorney General is recused “from any questions involving . . . investigations that involve Secretary Clinton.”

Further, we cannot refer an investigation to a second special counsel if we lack the evidence to predicate a criminal investigation in the first place.

Virtually every Clinton-related matter that President Trump complains about has been well-litigated, carefully examined, and completely debunked.

Still, to quote former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, “putting political opponents in jail for offenses committed in a political setting . . . is something that we don’t do here.”

The threat alone resembles, in his words, “a banana republic.”

Finally, there is the matter of routine oversight between hearings.

In the recent history of this Committee, new attorneys general usually come to see us within two or three months of taking office.

No attorney general in recent memory has taken more than six months before making an appearance here.

Attorney General Sessions has broken that norm—he has had more than ten months to settle in—making our communications with the Department between hearings that much more important.

To date, my colleagues and I have sent more than forty letters to the Trump Administration asking for information necessary to carry out our oversight responsibilities.

We have sent more than a dozen of these letters directly to the Attorney General. To date, we have not received a single substantive response.

We can disagree on matters of policy, Mr. Attorney General—but you cannot keep us in the dark forever.

When we make a reasonable oversight request, we expect you to reply in a prompt and responsive manner. I hope you can explain why your Department has chosen to ignore these letters.

More importantly, I hope that you will be more forthcoming with your answers—both in your testimony today and in the weeks to come.

I look forward to your testimony, and I yield back the balance of my time.

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Wednesday, November 8, 2017

CONYERS: House Judiciary Committee Approves Bipartisan Bill to Reform and Reauthorize Surveillance Program

Washington, D.C. – The House Judiciary Committee today approved by a vote of 27-8 the USA Liberty Act (H.R. 3989), a bipartisan bill that reforms and reauthorizes Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to protect both national security and Americans’ civil liberties. The bill was introduced last month by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr. (D-Mich.), Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas), Representative John Rutherford (R-Fla.), and Courts, Intellectual Property and the Internet Subcommittee Ranking Member Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).

The USA Liberty Act preserves the core purpose of Section 702: the collection of communications by targeting non-U.S. persons located outside the U.S. in order to identify and thwart terrorist plots against our nation and our citizens. The bill also creates a new framework of protections and transparency requirements to ensure that the government’s use of Section 702 accords with principles enshrined in our Constitution that protect individual liberty. It provides new accountability measures to address the unmasking of U.S. persons’ identities and new reporting requirements on the number of U.S. persons who have been swept up in Section 702 collection. The bill also enhances national security by increasing penalties for those who leak classified information and calling on the intelligence agencies to share information with each other and with our allies to combat terrorism. A summary of the bill can be found, below.

Below are statements from Judiciary Committee leaders on today’s Committee passage of the USA Liberty Act.

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Ranking Member Conyers: “For months, we have examined Section 702 and have reached consensus that Section 702 should be reauthorized if it can be brought better in line with values like privacy, transparency, and due process. The USA Liberty Act does just that. I’m proud of our bipartisan work to move this bill forward. The USA Liberty Actprovides both security and privacy, and gives the government the tools it needs while bringing these programs back in line with our core values.  I look forward to continuing to work in a bipartisan fashion to ensure that this bill passes the House of Representatives.”

Chairman Goodlatte: “The USA Liberty Act is a carefully drafted, bipartisan bill that protects Americans’ lives and their civil liberties. This bill reauthorizes a critical national security tool that keeps Americans safe, FISA Section 702, but also reforms it to protect Americans’ constitutional rights. It contains more accountability, transparency, and oversight so that the American people have confidence that our cherished liberties continue to be protected as the intelligence community keeps us safe from foreign enemies wishing to harm our nation and citizens. The bill also contains a number of measures to further enhance national security so that our country remains free and safe.

“As FISA Section 702 is set to expire at the end of the year, the USA Liberty Act is the best legislative solution to preserve this important national security tool while also providing for much needed reforms. I urge the House to vote on the USA Liberty Act soon so that the intelligence community is able to identify and thwart terrorist plots while Americans’ constitutional rights are better protected.”

Crime Subcommittee Chairman Sensenbrenner: “Finding the right balance between privacy rights and national security will be an ongoing challenge, especially because of the constant development of new and innovative technologies. It will require sustained attention from Congress and our intelligence communities, which is why the USA Liberty Act is critical. This bipartisan legislation balances privacy and security by requiring greater oversight, transparency, and accountability of the government’s surveillance powers while enabling our intelligence community to continue to utilize tools to keep Americans safe. It’s a measured balance between competing interests, and I look forward to it moving quickly through the legislative process.”

Crime Subcommittee Ranking Member Jackson Lee: “The USA Liberty Act protects our national security while enhancing congressional oversight and transparency of the information gathering process. Nothing in this bill will undermine the intelligence community’s ability to gather foreign intelligence information or detect threats to the homeland. Instead, this bill will create a new framework of protections and transparency requirements to ensure that the government’s use of Section 702 accords with principles of privacy and due process.”

Representative Rutherford: “FISA is essential to our national security, but we must ensure that we also safeguard Americans’ civil liberties. The USA Liberty Act improves privacy protections for our citizens, while also maintaining national security. This important legislation appropriately balances privacy and security by requiring greater oversight and accountability. I thank my colleagues on both sides of the aisle for supporting this important piece of legislation and look forward to it being voted on by the entire House.”

IP Subcommittee Ranking Member Nadler: “The USA Liberty Act represents a real, bipartisan effort at instituting needed reforms to the 702 program, striking the appropriate balance of giving our intelligence agencies the tools they need to keep us safe while making sure individual liberty and privacy rights are better protected. It is critical that we are careful not to permit national security needs to outweigh and overrun the individual’s constitutional rights, which is why these reforms are so necessary and important. For the first time, the bill introduces a requirement for a warrant—based on probable cause—for criminal investigators to query 702-obtained information. In addition, the USA Liberty Act significantly curbs the amount of incidental information that can be searched, and, most importantly, institutes critical operational norms for the 702 program that make it more accountable, more transparent, and ultimately more effective. This legislation makes substantial progress in reforming government surveillance under Section 702, and I want to thank Chairman Goodlatte and Ranking Member Conyers for working in good faith on the USA Liberty Act. Congress will continue to play an important role in ensuring sufficient protections are in place for Americans’ individual privacy, and I look forward to being a part of that process going forward.”

Background: FISA Section 702, which will expire on December 31, 2017, authorizes surveillance of the communications of non-U.S. persons located outside of the United States in order to protect national security. It reportedly contributes to a quarter of all National Security Agency surveillance and has been used on multiple occasions to detect and prevent horrific terrorist plots against our country. Although Congress designed this authority to target non-U.S. persons located outside of the United States, it is clear that Section 702 surveillance programs can and do incidentally collect information about U.S. persons when U.S. persons communicate with the foreign targets of Section 702 surveillance.

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CONYERS: Judiciary Statement On Markup Of H.R. 3989, The USA Liberty Act

Dean of the U.S. House
of Representatives
John Conyers, Jr.
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.  I want to begin by acknowledging the opposition to this bill.

There are many in the civil liberties community who fear that H.R. 3989, the USA Liberty Act, does not accomplish every reform we had hoped to see. 

They are rightly concerned that the government has used the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act in ways that Congress had never contemplated, and that the public would never tolerate. 

Others fear the bill goes too far.  For the most part, these critics are patriots charged with keeping us safe, and whose greatest fear is somehow falling short in that responsibility.
To those in the civil liberties community, I would point to all of the good work done in this bill.

For years, our members have expressed concern that information collected under Section 702 is repurposed for criminal investigations and other projects that have nothing whatsoever to do with national security. 

This bill will end that practice.  If a law enforcement agency wants  access to this information, they must first obtain a warrant based on individualized suspicion and probable cause.

We have also, for years, opposed so-called “about” collection—the gathering of communications that simply mention foreign targets—both because Congress never intended for Section 702 to be used that way, and because it swept in so much unrelated content. 

Twice, the FISA court has taken a hard look at “about” collection.  Twice, the court found it deficient on Fourth Amendment grounds, taking the government to task for an institutional “lack of candor” that allowed the deficiencies to persist for years without correction. 
In March, faced with the prospect of losing Section 702 altogether, the NSA voluntarily ended the practice.  Our bill would prohibit that type of surveillance by law.

The bill also creates a new regime of transparency and accountability. 

It encourages the court to appoint an amicus to its annual hearings on Section 702—someone to push back against the government’s more creative legal arguments. 

Any agency that has access to Section 702 information must publish their minimization procedures. 

The government will owe both Congress and the public a never-before-seen level of detail about how they use this statute. 

Have we accomplished every reform I had hoped to see?  We have not. 

But this legislation represents real, achievable, substantive reform. 

I am proud of this work, and Chairman Goodlatte and I will fight to protect this package of reforms as it makes its way to the floor.

To the men and women of the intelligence community, I would point to the extraordinary lengths we have taken to ensure that you have the tools you need to analyze foreign intelligence information.

I know that many are uncomfortable with the prospect of reform—any reform—not because they want to spy on Americans, but because they want to protect us from real and present threats to our country.

But there is a reason that it falls to this Committee—and not to the intelligence committees, or to the agencies themselves—to build the legal framework for these powerful surveillance authorities. 

In this room, a step or two removed from the urgency of every threat that comes across the screen, we can have an honest conversation about how these authorities accord with our values. 

That is precisely what has happened here.  For months, we have examined Section 702 in a sober and serious light.  We have heard from government agents, legal experts, technology and communication companies, and the best of civil society.

At the end of our discussion, we have reached consensus that Section 702 should be reauthorized—but if, and only if, it can be brought better in line with values like privacy, transparency, and due process.

Which brings me to my concluding thought: 

When we discuss powers and programs like these, it can be tempting to frame the discussion as balancing act between security and privacy.

I find that framing a false choice.

The central thesis of the USA Liberty Act is that we can have both security and privacy.  We can give the government the tools it needs and do so in a way that better respects our core values.

We proved that we could do so in the last Congress, when we worked together to pass the USA Freedom Act.

We will do so again today.

I want to thank the Chairman for his leadership on this issue. 

I also want to thank each of the original cosponsors of this bill—Democrats and Republicans alike—for lending their support to this important project. I urge my colleagues to support this legislation, and I yield the balance of my time.

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