Congress

  • Deeply divided House rejects effort to curb NSA data collection program

    In an exceedingly close vote — 205-to-217 — a bitterly divided House of Representative on Wednesday rejected legislation proposed to block the National Security Agency (NSA) from continuing its metadata collection programs. The debate over the balance between security and privacy – and whether, indeed, the NSA surveillance programs threatened privacy — saw the formation of an unusual coalition of liberal Democrats and libertarian and tea party Republicans calling for curbing the NSA surveillance power.

  • Lawmakers, citing shortcomings, threaten funding for chemical plant safety program

    Heads of three congressional panels urge DHS secretary Janet Napolitano to take to correct shortcomings in the Chemical Facilities Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) program. “As the authorizers and appropriators of this program, we write to you to express serious reservations about continuing to extend CFATS funding without evidence of substantial programmatic improvement,” the three chairmen write in their letter to Napolitano. The lawmakers pointed to flaws in the program’s risk evaluation system, compliance hurdles, implementation delays, and the failure of the program to identify vulnerable facilities.

  • McCain will put a hold on Dempsey’s nomination for second term over Syria policy

    Senator John McCain said yesterday (Thursday) that he will place a hold on the renomination of the nation’s top soldier, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, for a second term as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after he and Dempsey engaged in rather heated exchange over the administration’s policies toward the Syrian civil war. McCain bluntly said that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff was at least partly responsible for the administration’s “lackluster response” to the Assad regime’s aggression.

  • Ray Kelly’s DHS candidacy divides opinion

    One of the leading candidates to succeed Janet Napolitano as DHS secretary is NYPD commissioner Ray Kelly. New York politicians strongly support his candidacy, and President Obama said he was ‘well qualified.” Civil rights groups object to his nomination, saying that while there is no doubt about his qualifications and dedication, some of the policies he has initiated in New York — for example, suspicionless stop-and-frisk, the mass arrest of protesters during the 2004 Republican Convention, and the surveillance of Muslim communities in the city and neighboring states — have been heavy-handed, perhaps even constitutionally questionable.

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  • Angry lawmakers warn NSA to curb surveillance operations

    John Inglis, the deputy director of the National Security Agency (NSA), told angry lawmakers yesterday that his agency’s ability to analyze phone records and online behavior is greater than what the agency had previously revealed. Inglis told members of the House Judiciary Committee that NSA analysts can perform “a second or third hop query” through its collections of telephone data and Internet records in order to find connections to terrorist organizations. Representative James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), the author of the 2001 Patriot Act, warned the intelligence officials testifying before the committee that unless they rein in the scope of their surveillance on Americans’ phone records, “There are not the votes in the House of Representatives” to renew the provision after its 2015 expiration. “You’re going to lose it entirely,” he said.

  • Giuliani says political correctness hampers fight against domestic terrorists

    The Department of Defense initially described Army Major Nidal Hassan’s Fort Hood shooting spree as “terrorism,” but quickly changed that definition to “workplace violence.” Testifying before a congressional panel, former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani criticized DoD’s decision, and political correctness more generally, saying that “You can’t fight an enemy you don’t acknowledge.”

  • Lawmakers uneasy about Smithfield’s acquisition by a Chinese food giant

    Lawmakers last week questioned Smithfield Foods CEO Larry Pope about the proposed acquisition of the pork producer by China’s largest meat producer. Lawmakers are worried that the acquisition will negatively affect U.S food supply and agricultural producers.

  • House GOP caucus grapples with immigration issue

    During a closed-door meeting of the House Republican caucus on Wednesday, House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Representative Paul Ryan (R-Wisconsin) urged fellow GOP lawmakers to pass an immigration bill. Boehner reiterated his position that no immigration bill will be brought to the House floor without the support of the majority of the House GOP caucus. Participants in the meeting all agreed that they did not trust the Obama administration to enforce either immigration laws or border security provisions.

  • The tax contributions of undocumented immigrants to states and localities

    Opponents of immigration reform argue that undocumented immigrants would be a drain on federal, state, and local government resources if granted legal status under reform. It is also true, however, that the 11.2 million undocumented immigrants living in the United States are already taxpayers, and that their local, state, and federal tax contributions would increase under reform.

  • House speaker clarifies position on immigration reform

    House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) told reported on Monday that improvements in border security must be “in place” before a pathway to immigration is to begin. Boehner will head a special meeting of the House Republican Conference today to debate immigration reform.

  • Senate panel to investigate DHS IG office

    The Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs is investigating the Inspector General at DHS on allegations of nepotism, abuse of power, and covering up a Secret Service prostitution scandal.

  • Senate immigration bill could yield billions in federal contracts

    The Senate immigration bill will see billions of dollars go to defense and technology companies as a result of billions of dollars in new and expanded federal contracts aiming to bolster border security.

  • NSA revelations raise doubts about passage of cybersecurity legislation

    U.S. officials say the revelations about the National Security Agency’s(NSA) domestic surveillance programs could make it harder for lawmakers to pass a cybersecurity bill. Critics of the House cybersecurity bill, known as the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which was passed earlier this year (it is still being debated in the Senate), argued the bill could lead to private information falling into the hands of the NSA.

  • Lawmakers want to ease travel to U.S. as part of immigration legislation

    A bi-partisan group of House lawmakers is working to include a provision in the House immigration legislation which will make it easier to travel to the United States. Travel industry groups support the effort, having fought for years to get the government to relax security measures. The industry has argued that these measures have turned off many foreigners from traveling to the United States.

  • Senate passes historic immigration reform bill

    The Senate yesterday, on a vote of 68-32, approved a sweeping immigration overhaul bill, the most important immigration measure since the 1986 Immigration and Reform Act (IRCA). The measure offers a path to citizenship to about eleven million illegal immigrants currently in the United States and allocates billions of dollars to bolstering border security.