Following two weeks of marking up Republican-backed immigration “reform” legislation in the House Judiciary Committee, we are now turning our sights towards two issues that have dominated the news recently: the Voting Rights Act and the federal government’s surveillance programs and related authorities.
Today at 10 am we are holding a full committee oversight hearing on the Administration’s Use of Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Authorities. All Members on Judiciary, Republican and Democratic alike, are concerned about whether the White House has taken an overly broad view of the FISA authorities described in recent media reports. There is growing bipartisan consensus that the sprawling surveillance apparatus employed by the government has extended far beyond what Congress intended when it amended the USA PATRIOT Act in 2005 and passed the FISA Amendments Act in 2008.
To assess the various viewpoints and concerns that have arisen over the past several weeks, this hearing will feature two panels of witnesses. Witnesses from the first panel will feature key players within the federal government agencies involved with interpreting the FISA legislation and carrying out the clandestine, surveillance activities. The first set of panelists include: Mr. James Cole with the U.S. Department of Justice, Mr John C. Inglis with the National Security Agency (NSA), Mr. Robert S. Litt with the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and Ms. Stephanie Douglas with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) National Security Branch. The second panel will feature witnesses from a range of firms and organizations with an interest in civil liberties, national security and the rule of law - including: Mr. Stewart Baker with Steptoe & Johnson, LLP, Mr. Steven G. Bradbury with Dechert, LLP, Mr. Jameel Jaffer with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), and Ms. Kate Martin with the Center for National Security Studies.
After wrapping up our oversight activities, the Judiciary Committee will turn its attention this Thursday to the “Voting Rights Act after the Supreme Court’s Decision in Shelby County.” This hearing will take place in the Subcommittee on the Constitution and Civil Justice at 11 am.
This hearing comes on the heels of a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing yesterday entitled, "From Selma to Shelby County: Working Together to Restore the Protections of the Voting Rights Act.” At the hearing, civil rights champion Congressman John Lewis testified alongside the former Republican House Judiciary Chairman who led the reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in 2006 - Jim Sensenbrenner.
Witnesses for our House Judiciary hearing include Mr. J. Christian Adams, with the Election Law Center, Mr. Robert Kengle, with the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Mr. Hans A.von Spakovsky, with The Heritage Foundation, Mr. Spencer Overton, with The George Washington University Law School.
Be sure to follow @HouseJudDems for live-tweets from the two hearings.
Congressman John Conyers, Jr.
Ranking Member, U.S. House Judiciary Committee