Gopal Ratnam

Tech Companies Get an Earful From Intelligence Committee
Senators accuse executives of just not getting extent of Russian meddling

Big technology companies faced a second day of public lashing on Capitol Hill, with the Senate Intelligence Committee accusing companies of a lackluster response to Russian meddling in the 2016 election. 

On Tuesday, executives from Facebook, Google and Twitter told the Senate Judiciary Crime and Terrorism Subcommittee that ads and automated non-advertising content generated by Moscow-backed companies reached hundreds of millions of Americans during the 2016 election — a number that is far higher than previous estimates offered by the companies.

Podcast: Congress Aims to Rein In Government Snoops
The Week Ahead, Episode 76

A bipartisan cast of lawmakers, including Sen. Ron Wyden, plan to curtail the government's surveillance powers that must be renewed by the end of the year, says CQ intelligence reporter Gopal Ratnam.   

Show Notes:

White House Aide Nielsen Picked for Homeland Secretary
Nominee previously served as John F. Kelly’s chief of staff at DHS

President Donald Trump announced Wednesday he has chosen Kirstjen Nielsen, a top aide to White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, to lead the Department of Homeland Security.

Nielsen, 45, previously served as Kelly’s chief of staff at DHS when he led the department before taking the White House job in July. Nielsen would be leaving her role at the White House after having served as a top aide to Kelly for just a little over a month.

New Foreign Surveillance Bill Would Boost Privacy Protections
Top House Judiciary leaders reached decision last week

House Judiciary Chairman Robert W. Goodlatte and the panel’s top Democrat Rep. John Conyers Jr. reached agreement last week on a new bill that would tighten privacy protections in a surveillance law considered vital by U.S. intelligence agencies.

The bill’s attempt to shore up civil liberties runs contrary to what the White House and intelligence agencies have sought, and is likely to face opposition from a group of national security hawks in the Senate who back the Trump administration position.

House Eyes Overhaul of Defense Intelligence Agency
Handful of offices and missions targeted for elimination

The Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency is in the cross hairs of the House Intelligence Committee, which is aiming for a radical overhaul of the military’s spy arm.

The committee sees it as bloated and ineffective. But how far such an effort would go remains to be seen as several other congressional oversight panels that would have a say are waiting for a fuller assessment to emerge before they sign off on major changes.

Congress Braces for Tense Debate on Surveillance Law
Spy agencies argue for permanent reauthorization of FISA amendments

Lawmakers are facing a potentially bruising fight over a surveillance law that expires Dec. 31 and must be extended in time to preserve what U.S. spy agencies consider a vital piece of their arsenal.

Congress has to extend the 2012 FISA Amendments Act, which will pit the Trump administration and national security hawks in Congress who favor a permanent reauthorization with no changes, against lawmakers of both parties, libertarians, privacy advocates and communications companies seeking to tighten protections for U.S. persons whose communications may get caught up in the wide electronic net cast by spy agencies.

Trump to Lift Ban on Military Gear for Local Police Agencies

The Trump administration will lift a two-year-old ban on police departments across the United States getting surplus military equipment as part of an overall effort to support local law enforcement agencies.

“I am here to announce that President Trump is issuing an executive order that will make it easier to protect yourselves and your communities,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions told police officers Monday, according to prepared remarks.

Trump Costs Prompt Secret Service Plea to Congress
‘The president has a large family, and our responsibility is required in law’

The Secret Service, anticipating the demands of protecting President Donald Trump and his family, wants Congress to again lift pay caps so it can reimburse its agents for overtime work during fiscal 2018.

Whether the agency will need additional appropriations remains to be decided. But the service, part of the Homeland Security Department, estimates about 1,100 employees will work overtime hours that would exceed the statutory pay caps in place during calendar year 2017, Director Randolph “Tex” Alles said in a statement Monday.

Drug Smuggling Biggest Threat Along Canadian Border, DHS Says

The biggest threat to the U.S.-Canada border continues to be drug smuggling with criminal gangs employing low-flying airplanes to avoid detection, the Department of Homeland Security said in a report to Congress on Thursday.

“The most common threat to U.S. public safety along the northern border continues to be the bidirectional flow of illicit drugs,” the Northern Border Threat Analysis report said. “To avoid detection by U.S. and Canadian law enforcement,” transnational criminal groups occasionally fly “private aircraft at low altitude to evade radar detection, but there are no reports to suggest that the tactic is employed on a large scale.”

Brooks: ‘Swamp Critter’ McConnell Should Be Replaced
Alabama Senate hopeful slams majority leader, filibuster rules

Rep. Mo Brooks attacked Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday, saying he would vote to change how the chamber works if he wins the special election in Alabama.

McConnell “is a swamp critter,” Brooks told reporters at an event organized by the Heritage Foundation. Instead of “draining the swamp” as President Donald Trump has promised, McConnell is enabling old ways of doing business in Washington, Brooks said.

Podcast: Trump's Travel Ban Tests Family Ties
The Week Ahead, Episode 60

CQ Roll Call reporters Dean DeChiaro and Gopal Ratnam explain the latest on President Donald Trump's travel ban, which went into partial effect June 29 following a Supreme Court decision. They explain who is now allowed into the United States and who is not and discuss the legal and policy debates to come.

 

Controversial Sheriff Says He’s Taking Homeland Security Post
‘It’s going to be a huge learning curve for me’

Milwaukee County Sheriff David Clarke, who has been a staunch supporter of President Donald Trump, said Wednesday he’s taking a job at the Homeland Security Department.

Clarke, whose name has been previously floated for administration jobs, told WISN-AM that he’s taking a job at DHS that involves liaising with state and local law enforcement agencies. The post does not require Senate confirmation.

DHS Chief Kelly to Congress: ‘Shut Up’ or Change Law
Retired general blames low morale on political meddling

 

Homeland Security Secretary John F. Kelly offered a strong defense Tuesday of the Trump administration’s actions falling under the department’s umbrella, challenging lawmakers who don’t like its enforcement actions to “shut up” or change the law.

Senate Democrats Vow to Block Border Wall Funds
Schumer ‘prepared to fight this all the way’

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer on Tuesday said Democrats will block President Donald Trump’s budget proposals on expanding federal immigration forces and starting the border wall project.

“Senate Democrats are prepared to fight this all the way,” the New York Democrat said at an event organized by the National Council of La Raza, the country’s largest Hispanic civil rights advocacy group. “Instead of spending taxpayer dollars on a pointless wall, we should be investing in creating jobs and fixing our infrastructure.”

Ep. 46: Border Wall Design Begins and Guess Who Is Paying? Not Mexico.
The Week Ahead

Catch-up here on what is happening with President Donald Trump’s illegal immigration crackdown and plan to build a border wall, including its price tag. The project will involve taking private property and at least $15 billion taxpayer dollars, says CQ Roll Call’s national security reporter Gopal Ratnam. The wall was a cornerstone of Trump’s agenda, but some of his campaign promises on immigration have yet to be realized, adds immigration reporter Dean DeChiaro. @cqnow @rollcall

Show Notes:

Federal Judges Block Trump’s Modified Travel Ban
President says ruling ‘makes us look weak’

Federal judges in Hawaii and Maryland issued nationwide temporary restraining orders halting President Donald Trump’s revised travel ban, with one coming just hours before the executive action was set to go into effect.

A decision Wednesday by U.S. District Judge Derrick K. Watson in Hawaii was the second such ruling against Trump’s efforts to block temporarily certain immigrants, refugees and travelers from Muslim-majority nations from entering the country. A judge in Washington state blocked the original travel ban, which was broader in scope, shortly after it was signed Jan. 27.

Trump’s Travel Order Opens Door to Targeting More Countries
Order also mandates data collection on honor killings in the U.S.

President Donald Trump’s modified executive order on travel and refugees creates requirements for a stream of reports that could lead to more countries being targeted for visa restrictions and a new effort to tally the prevalence of honor killings in the United States.

Trump’s order takes effect Thursday and will stop the issuance of new U.S. visas to nationals of Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen for three months. It also halts the arrival of refugees for four months while the State, Homeland Security and Justice departments review and tighten entry procedures for foreigners.

Trump Signs Revised Travel Ban
Iraq removed from Muslim-majority countries affected

President Donald Trump signed a new executive order Monday that restricts U.S. entry of nationals from six Muslim-majority countries for three months and suspends refugees for four months while the Homeland Security, State and Justice departments tighten vetting procedures. 

The new order will go into effect at midnight on March 16 and will apply to nationals of Iran, Libya, Sudan, Somalia, Syria, and Yemen who don’t already have a valid U.S. visa to enter the country.

House Homeland Panels Agree to Coordinate Oversight

All of the House committees with jurisdiction over the Department of Homeland Security have for the first time agreed they will begin coordinating their oversight functions with the aim of producing an annual policy bill that would govern the department’s nearly two dozen agencies.

Chairmen of eight House committees signed a memorandum of understanding pledging to coordinate with the House Homeland Security Committee “to produce a comprehensive authorization bill for the department,” according to a copy of the agreement obtained by CQ. The agreement will be entered into the Congressional Record Thursday.

Kelly Says He'll Quit Advisory Positions with Defense Contractors

Retired Marine Corps Gen. John Kelly has pledged to quit advisory and board member roles with defense contractors and consulting firms if he is confirmed as Homeland Security secretary, according to disclosures filed with the U.S. Office of Government Ethics. 

Kelly appears before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee for his confirmation hearing Tuesday afternoon.