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Bill Weighs Civil Liberties, National Security

July 18, 2019, 11:59 AM HST (Updated July 18, 2019, 12:22 PM)
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US Congressman Ed Case (Hawai‘i-District 1) has gained full approval from the US House of Representatives for his floor amendment to the national intelligence authorization act to ensure civil liberties of American citizens, with a special emphasis on Chinese Americans.

Rep. Case’s legislation would require US intelligence agencies review and report back to Congress on whether they are adequately protecting civil liberties in countering foreign espionage efforts.

The amendment was approved unanimously by the House for inclusion in House Resolution 3494, the annual Intelligence Authorization Act. The bill, passed by the full House Thursday, July 18, 2019, ensures that our country’s intelligence community has the resources, authorities and proper oversight to keep our nation safe.

His amendment specifically questions whether a significant increase in prosecutions of Chinese Americans arising from US government investigations into alleged espionage by the People’s Republic of China reflects an unacceptable broader profiling and targeting of the Chinese-American community.

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Rep. Case said the amendment was prompted by a recent report by the Committee of 100—a non-partisan leadership organization of prominent Chinese Americans in business, government, academia, entertainment and the arts—which found substantial increases in investigations and prosecutions disproportionate to other ethnic groups in the last decade.

In some noteworthy examples, the indictments of Temple University Professor Xi Xiaoxing and Sherry Chen, a hydrologist with the US National Weather Service in Ohio, were dismissed prior to trial. Indictments of Guoqing Cao and Shuyu Li, senior biologists at Eli Lilly & Company, were also thrown out of court before a trial began. All are U.S. citizens of Chinese descent.

In his floor remarks on his amendment, Rep. Case began by remembering the internment of some 120,000 ethnic Japanese, most of them US citizens, in the hysteria of World War II.

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“Are we repeating history or in danger of doing so?” Rep. Case asked.

“[There is] no doubt, China seeks to recruit Chinese Americans to its goals, and no doubt our government should, and must, review specific case of potential espionage by China on specific facts,” Rep. Case continued. “But have we fallen into the same trap all over again of justifying investigations and other actions toward the end of national security by the means of general profiling and targeting based solely on ethnic identity?”

Rep. Case’s amendment calls on the US Director of National Intelligence, acting through the director’s Office of Civil Liberties, Privacy and Transparency, to direct the overall intelligence community to review whether espionage investigations are focused on specific facts as opposed to profiling whole ethnic groups such as Chinese Americans, to assure procedures protect civil liberties and privacy protections, and to report back to Congress with recommendations.

“The Committee of 100 stands for the civil rights of Chinese Americans and all citizens, consistent with the American national interest, and thanks members of Congress for their leadership ensuring equality,” said Charlie Woo, vice chair of The Committee of 100.

Highlights of the bill include:

• Prioritizing the intelligence community’s collection and analytic capabilities against China, Russia, and North Korea, while sustaining critical intelligence capabilities that support counterterrorism and counterproliferation efforts.

• Adapting the intelligence community to operate in a strategic environment of rapid technological change.

• Reinforcing existing hiring pipelines and broadening engagement with non-traditional communities in order to ensure that the intelligence community consistently recruits, hires, retains and promotes the most highly qualified, and most highly diverse possible workforce.

• Maintaining and strengthening Congressional oversight by requiring each of the defense intelligence components to provide, in writing, how they comply with Department of Defense guidance about the timeliness and methods of reporting significant intelligence activities.

• Providing and prioritizing increased funding for intelligence capability and capacity for combatant commanders in support of the 2018 National Defense Strategy and strategic competition with China, Russia, and other malign actors.

• Understanding and countering Russian and other foreign interference in US and foreign elections.

• Renewing the Public Interest Declassification Board, which is an advisory committee with the mandate of promoting the fullest possible public access to key national security decisions and activities, for 10 years.

• Ensuring that the intelligence community recruitment efforts extend to rural and underserved areas.

• Authorizing the CIA to appropriately compensate its personnel and their dependents, when they are injured in connection with wars, insurgencies, hostile acts or other incidents.

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