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Tag: Congress

New FBI Official Tries to Open Lines of Communication with Congress

congress copyBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

It’s safe to say Greg Brower is feeling pressure from Congress.

Last month, Brower became the FBI’s chief liaison to Capitol Hill, essentially acting as a conduit between Congress and the FBI.

His new job coincides with an FBI investigation into a possible relationship between Russia and Donald Trump’s campaign team to influence the election.

“It’s absolutely critical that the relationship be a good one, that the lines of communication be open, that Congress understands what we’re doing and not doing,” Brower told The Hill.

Brower is a lawyer and former Nevada state senator whose major role, he said, is communication.

The Hill wrote:

For Brower, translating the insular language of the bureau to Congress — where many members are not lawyers nor have experience working with law enforcement — is something that comes naturally given his experience as a former state legislator. 

Although one former House Intelligence Committee staffer expressed surprise that Comey had hired a liaison who started with comparatively few Capitol Hill contacts, Brower noted, “I’ve kind of been there on that side of things and kind of know how that sausage-making process works.

“It’s not just the language differences, but the mentality. I feel like I have, over the years, sometimes literally at the same time, had to think like a lawyer and think like a legislator.”

Part of Brower’s job has been responding to queries from lawmakers who want clarification about anonymously sourced stories on the FBI’s Russia investigation that they have seen in the press. 

It’s often up to Brower to sort out any disconnects between what’s reported and what’s really going on — “as best we can, to the extent we can.” He acknowledges that can sometimes be a difficult task given the bureau’s longstanding policy of not talking about ongoing investigations. 

Will a New FBI Headquarters Ever Be Built? Congress Faces Spending Deadline

Current FBI headquarters

Current FBI headquarters

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

If you’re wondering whether the FBI’s new headquarters will ever be built, you could be forgiven.

For years, federal officials have been planning to build a new headquarters in Maryland or Virginia. But every year passes without funding.

Now Congress is scrambling to secure more than a billion dollars by next month to proceed with the project, the Baltimore Sun reports. 

“A vague, three-sentence statement released this month by the agency overseeing the $2 billion development — as well as silence from President Donald Trump, a former real estate developer — has shifted the discussion from whether the headquarters will be built in Maryland or Virginia to whether its progress will be delayed indefinitely,” the Baltimore Sun wrote.

To keep the project going, Congress must secure $1.4 billion for the building by April 28, when current spending authority expires.

Congress Slams FBI’s Use of Facial Recognition Technology Software

Rep. Elijah Cummings

Rep. Elijah Cummings

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Democrats and Republicans in Congress slammed the FBI’s use of facial recognition software, saying it relies on racial biases, leads to the arrests of innocent people and violates privacy.

NBC reports that more than 400 million pictures of Americans’ faces are archived in various facial recognition networks, representing about half of all U.S. adults.

“I have zero confidence in the FBI and the [Justice Department], frankly, to keep this in check,” Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-Massachusetts, said at a hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Regulation.

“This is really Nazi Germany here, what we’re talking about,” Lynch said. “And I see little difference in the way people are being tracked under this, just getting one wide net and getting information on all American citizens.”

Rep. John Duncan, R-Tennessee, added: “I think we’re reaching a very sad point, a very dangerous point, when we’re doing away with the reasonable expectation of privacy about anything.”

Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Maryland, said facial recognition software is less accurate at identifying people with dark skin, women and younger people.

“If you’re black, you’re more likely to be subjected to this technology,” said Cummings, who is black. “And the technology is more likely to be wrong. That’s a hell of a combination, especially when you’re talking about subjecting someone to the criminal justice system.”

FBI Director Is Holding Back Details of Trump-Russia Probe, Democrat Says

FBI Director James Comey

FBI Director James Comey

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Democrats who hoped to learn more about the investigations into Russian meddling in the U.S. elections were disappointed after a closed-door meeting with FBI Director James Comey.

“At this point we know less than a fraction of what the FBI knows,” said U.S. Representative Adam Schiff, the leading Democrat on the House intelligence committee, Newsweek reports. 

Schiff said the committee plans to investigate the potential collusion between Russia and Donald Trump’s presidential campaign.

Disappointed that the FBI failed to give the panel a full intelligence briefing, Schiff said Comey will be called back.

“There were very large areas that were walled off, and those walls are going to have to come down if we are going to do our job,” Schiff said.

Democrat Questions FBI Director’s Willingness to Investigate Trump’s Ties to Russia

Russian leader Vladimir Putin

Russian leader Vladimir Putin

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

FBI Director James Comey has shown virtually no willingness to cooperate with a Congressional investigation into potential ties between Russia and President Trump’s campaign, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee said Monday.

“I have yet to be convinced … by the director of the FBI that we will have the fulsome kind of cooperation that we will need,” Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., told reporters in the Capitol, The Hill reports.

Without the full cooperation of the FBI and Comey, Schiff said there’s little the Intelligence Committee can do.

“We can’t become the FBI, we can’t send out our own investigators spanning all over the globe,” Schiff said. “We will need their cooperation, and whether we will get that in as fulsome a manner as we need has yet to be determined, in my view.” 

Schiff’s comments came just hours after Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif., said he’s seen “no evidence” of ties between Russia and Trump’s campaign.

“What I’ve been told, by many folks, is that there’s nothing there — but we’re absolutely looking into it,” Nunes said.

Republican Congressman Introduces Bill to Eliminate the ATF

ATF LogoBy Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

If Wisconsin Republican Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner gets his way, the ATF will be dissolved and its responsibilities dished out to other federal agencies.

Sensenbrenner introduce the ATF Elimination Act, which would hand over alcohol and tobacco cases to the DEA, while the FBI would handle firearms, explosives and arsons, the Daily Caller reports. 

“Common sense budgeting solutions are necessary, and the ATF Elimination Act is one measure we can take to reduce spending, redundancy, and practice responsible governance,” said Sensenbrenner. “The ATF is a scandal-ridden, largely duplicative agency that has been branded by failure and lacks a clear mission. It is plagued by backlogs, funding gaps, hiring challenges, and a lack of leadership.”

Sensenbrenner maintains that eliminating the ATF would help “bring draining the swamp” and be in the “best interest” of taxpayers.

The Daily Caller wrote:

The bill would require the DEA and FBI to provide congress a plan for incorporating the ATF’s responsibilities, field offices, buildings and assets.

In addition to cutting the ATF, the bill would place a hiring freeze on the ATF and would require the Department of Justice, the ATF’s parent agency, to “eliminate and reduce duplicative functions and waste.”

AG Candidate Jeff Sessions Won’t Commit to Protecting Journalists’ Sources

Jeff Sessions at the confirmation hearing.

Jeff Sessions at the confirmation hearing.

By Steve Neavling
ticklethewire.com

Sen. Jeff Sessions, who is Donald Trump’s choice for the next attorney general, said Tuesday at his confirmation hearing that he would not commit to keeping journalists from going to jail for refusing to leak information from anonymous sources.

By contrast, Attorney General Eric Holder said in 2015 that he would not jail reporters for doing their jobs, Huffington Post reports

“If confirmed, will you commit to following the standards already in place at the Justice Department and will you make that commitment not to put reporters in jail for doing their jobs?” asked Sen. Amy Klobuchar, R-Minn.

“I’m not sure,” Sessions responded. “I have not studied those regulations.”

Sessions said that information from journalists could serve as a “mechanism through which unlawful intelligence is obtained.”

Trump’s Plan to Build a Wall at Mexican Border Would Skirt Federal Laws

Donald Trump

Donald Trump

By Robert J. Uram
San Francisco Chronicle

Now that the Trump transition team has signaled to congressional Republicans that the president-elect wants to seek a budget appropriation to build a wall across the U.S.-Mexico border and have Mexico reimburse the cost later, it’s time to think about how he might do that. As president, Donald Trump may propose that Congress give him new authority to set aside laws to expedite construction. Congress set such an ill-advised precedent when it authorized wall construction more than a decade ago. The possibility of a similar request now should concern us all.

In 2005, Congress passed the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations Act for Defense, the Global War on Terror, and Tsunami Relief, which was signed into law by President George W. Bush. Hidden away in this enormous appropriations bill was a section of the REAL ID Act of 2005, which gave the secretary of Homeland Security the unlimited right to waive “all legal requirements” he or she deems necessary to expedite the installation of border controls in areas of high illegal entry.

That included environmental protections laws such as the National Environmental Policy Act, the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act. These are, perhaps, logical waivers to expedite construction of border facilities.

There is, however, nothing in the law that would have prevented setting aside other less germane laws. The secretary could have waived the Freedom of Information Act to allow the project to be built in secret — he or she is only limited by his or her imagination. Not only can federal laws be waived, but all state, local and “other laws” derived from or related to the subject of the federal laws also can be waived. All that was required was publication of the waiver in the Federal Register.

And, as it happened, the Department of Homeland Security exercised its waiver rights five times to build nearly 700 miles of border protection. Literally dozens of laws have been waived, including many environmental laws and the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

But that is only half the story.

To read more click here. 

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