Congress Learns to Live with Warrantless Surveillance
Plus: Europe Confirms Georgia’s Democratic Path
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CORBIN K. BARTHOLD: How Congress Learned to Live with Warrantless Surveillance (for Now)
LAST WEEK, CONGRESS PASSED, and soon President Joe Biden will sign, the annual National Defense Authorization Act. Within the bill’s 3,000 pages sits a four-month extension—through next April—of the government’s authority under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) to monitor the electronic communications of foreigners (and sometimes Americans) without a warrant.
The Senate narrowly defeated a point of order, raised by Rand Paul, contesting the extension’s presence in the bill. Thirty-four senators joined in Paul’s effort (six shy of what was needed to prevail). In political outlook, those siding with Paul ran the gamut, from Elizabeth Warren and Mazie Hirono on the left to Josh Hawley and J.D. Vance on the right. Earlier, more than fifty House members signed a letter denouncing the extension. Ilhan Omar and Barbara Lee (the only member of Congress to oppose the use of military force following the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks) united with Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and Chip Roy.
ERIC S. EDELMAN AND FRANKLIN C. MILLER: A New Start After New START
THE NEW START TREATY WILL EXPIRE in January 2026. When it does, the United States will, for the first time, face a world in which it has two nuclear-peer adversaries without any operative treaties limiting their nuclear arsenals.
New START helped get us to this point. Conceived in the heady days of Barack Obama’s first term as a part of his crusade for a world without nuclear weapons, it was falsely advertised as imposing deeper cuts than any previous treaty—despite the fact that its counting rules allowed for more weapons than the 2002 Strategic Offensive Reductions Treaty. The treaty contained a number of flaws. It accepted limitations on missile defense and (potentially) conventional prompt global strike systems without any corresponding concessions from Russia; it ignored Russia’s large advantage in theater nuclear weapons; and its verification provisions were weaker than late-Cold War-era treaties. It was arguably no longer fit for purpose in 2021 when the Biden administration extended it for five years. As we argued at the time, the Biden team would have been well served by seeking a more limited treaty extension with additional roll-overs contingent on good faith negotiations with Russia and with China added to the process. But New START is obsolete in a world in which the United States faces two nuclear-peer adversaries. The treaty’s demise represents the end of the so-called “golden age” of arms control—the web of post-Cold War agreements concluded with the USSR and Russia. That Golden Age may never be repeated.
🎥 PODCASTS AND VIDEOS 🎧
On this week’s Shield of The Republic, Eric Edelman visits the Miller Center and joins John Owen IV and Marc Selverstone to talk about their recent books.
Thursday Night Bulwark: Is off this week.
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DAVID J. KRAMER AND IAN KELLY: Europe Confirms Georgia’s Democratic Path.
NOE JORDANIA, THE FIRST PRESIDENT of an independent Georgia, said in 1919 that Georgia’s future is “indissolubly tied to the West, and no force can break this bond.” Slightly more than a century later, that vision has come closer to fruition. On December 14, the European Council approved Georgia’s status as a candidate to join the EU. (On the same day, the Council moved a step further with Ukraine and Moldova, opening accession negotiations.)
In Tbilisi, the news of candidate status was greeted with joy. Polls routinely show up that some 80 percent of the Georgian people, yearning to break free of centuries of Moscow’s malign influence, want to link their future to the West by joining the EU.
Happy Thursday! I’m back from New York and enjoyed seeing all the sights JVL must get tired of. Our dogs are glad we’re back, too.
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