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This Week in Congress: Foreign Aid and Tyranny

This week the House returns from "spring break." Today and Wednesday the House will consider "suspensions."

One of the suspension bills of particular interest is HR 4509. This legislation requires  states or "high-risk urban areas" receiving Homeland Security funds to establish a state planning committee or an urban area working group, in order to develop and revise homeland security plans and work on threat and hazard identification.

Readers will be interested to know that the committees must have representatives of fusion centers -- the wonderful people that consider you and I terrorists -- on their board.
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Lawrence Wilkerson: Sen. Richard Burr is ’Ultimate Protector’ of CIA Torture Criminals

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) is “the ultimate protector” of United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) torture criminals, writes College of William & Marry Professor Lawrence Wilkerson in a powerful Thursday editorial in The Charlotte Observer.

Wilkerson, an Academic Board member of the Ron Paul Institute and a retired US Army colonel, discusses in the editorial how Burr has sought to keep the US government’s torture activities hidden from public view. Instead of ensuring oversight and accountability as the committee chairman, Burr has, Wilkerson concludes, been aiding a cover-up that even encourages US presidential candidates to depict torture as desirable instead of as a despicable criminal activity.
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CIA's Brennan to Senate: I'm Not Sorry I Spied on You

CIA director John Brennan lost his cool at Sen. Ron Wyden, (D-OR) in a hearing of the Senate Intelligence Committee today when the Oregon Senator suggested the spy chief should apologize for spying on the Senate. 

It was back in 2014 with the Senate was investigating CIA torture activities that Brennan's agency, as his own CIA Inspector General concluded, gained "improper" access to Senate computers with the intent of snooping on the investigation.
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Sen. Ted Cruz Muddies Constitution to Push Treason Charge for Ed Snowden

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), quoted in the New York Times on Wednesday, says that whistle-blower Edward Snowden, who revealed the extraordinary scope of the United States government’s mass surveillance program, is a traitor who should be tried in court for the treasonous act of “giving aid to our enemies.” Cruz even declares that the United States Constitution supports this prosecution of Snowden.

It is not out of the ordinary for a senator to want Snowden prosecuted. But, can’t Cruz have the decency to just state his opinion without hiding behind and muddying the Constitution?
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‘Leaders’ McConnell and Ryan Support Unlimited War Power for Obama and Next President

US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) like to portray themselves as strong leaders who act to protect congressional authority against Obama Administration power grabs. But, in regard to the ISIS War, both congressional leaders are happy to cede — year after year — power without limit to President Barack Obama and whoever the next president may be.

McConnell told Roll Call on Friday that he opposes the Senate voting on an authorization of the ISIS War until, if ever, sometime after the January of 2017 inauguration of a new president. Just let Obama conduct the ISIS War however he pleases for the remainder of his term, and do not dare impose any limits on the next president either: That is McConnell’s position.

Meanwhile, Ryan is expressing willingness to hold a House debate and vote on an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) for the ISIS War, but only so long as it is assured the AUMF in no way restricts what Obama or a future president may do.
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Do You Owe Taxes? Congress Wants to Take Your Passport!

In July, Ron Paul Institute Executive Director Daniel McAdams warned that “[b]uried inside the US highways funding bill is a provision to revoke or deny issuance of a US passport to anyone who has a large outstanding tax debt to the US Internal Revenue Service.” This provision in the Senate bill, explained McAdams, is “threatening to imprison Americans within (or outside) US borders.”
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US House Resolution Calls For NATO Article 5 in Response to Paris Killings

On Monday, Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX) introduced in the United States House of Representatives a resolution (H.Res. 525) calling on President Barack Obama “to work closely with other North Atlantic Treaty Organization [NATO] members to invoke Article 5 of the North Atlantic Treaty in response to the Paris attacks.”

Article 5 in the NATO treaty deals with member nations taking action in response to an attack on another NATO member.

Poe is chairman of the Subcommittee on Terrorism, Nonproliferation, and Trade in the House Foreign Affairs Committee — the committee to which Poe’s resolution has been referred for consideration.
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35 House Members Ask Speaker Paul Ryan for ISIS War AUMF Vote

A group of 35 US House of Representatives members, led by Reps. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Tom Cole (R-OK), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Walter Jones (R-NC), Peter Welch (D-VT), and John Lewis (D-GA), sent a letter on Friday to House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) expressing that it “is critical that the House schedule and debate an Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) as quickly as possible” in regard to US government actions in and around Iraq and Syria.

Going to the heart of the matter, the letter states:
We do not share the same policy prescriptions for US military engagement in the region, but we do share the belief that it is past time for the Congress to fulfill its obligations under the Constitution and vote on an AUMF that clearly delineates the authority and limits, if any, on US military engagement in Iraq, Syria and the surrounding region.
The letter further notes the US government’s recently announced escalation of military air and ground operations in both Iraq and Syria.
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Ron Paul: New House Speaker Paul Ryan is ‘Almost the Opposite of a Libertarian’

Speaking this week with host Kennedy on Fox Business, Ron Paul Institute Chairman Ron Paul ridiculed the suggestion that Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI), who became Speaker of the House of Representatives last week, may advance libertarian goals in the House. Instead, Paul declares “it’s going to be the same old thing” in the House with Ryan in the top leadership position.
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Rep. Peter Welch’s Short and Direct Answer to Obama Sending Combat Troops to Syria

In a short and direct statement Friday, Rep. Peter Welch (D-VT) presented the case for Congress debating and voting on the United States military intervention in the Middle East that the Obama administration has now escalated with the announced insertion of US special forces into the fighting in Syria.

“Make no mistake, this is war,” says Welch. “When will Congress finally accept its responsibility?” Welch asks. Welch follows his query by noting that “[t]he Constitution is clear that only Congress can authorize war.”
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