The Paper Trail: April 23, 2024

Congress Extends Controversial Surveillance Law; The Pentagon’s Lobbying Swindle; Abortion Data Wars; and More. 

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The Paper Trail

Top stories for April 23, 2024

Congress extends controversial warrantless surveillance law for two years: Laboring into the early hours of Saturday morning, Congress reauthorized for two years Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, a surveillance program that U.S. spy agencies regard as one of their most valuable tools and that critics say intrudes on Americans’ privacy. (Ellen Nakashima and Shane Harris, Washington Post)

House committee finds CIA at fault in investigation on sexual assaults: The House intelligence committee interviewed more than 20 CIA whistleblowers and found major shortfalls at Langley in preventing assaults and punishing perpetrators. (Daniel Lippman, Politico)

The pandemic cost 7 million lives, but talks to prevent a repeat stall: Global leaders are struggling to reach an accord to help prepare for the next pandemic. The main sticking points involve access to vital information about new threats that may emerge, and to the vaccines and medicines that could contain those threats. (Frances Stead Sellers, Washington Post)

GSA lacks management controls for keeping foreign gifts, IG says: A watchdog report found the GSA’s program for managing the gifts received from foreign dignitaries didn’t have adequate inventory systems to keep track of the items in its possession. GSA officials were missing gifts from the inventory while also possessing prohibited items. (Carten Cordell, Government Executive)

Oil companies must set aside more money to plug wells, a new rule says. But it won’t be enough: For the first time in decades, the Bureau of Land Management will force oil and gas companies to set aside more money to guarantee they plug old wells on federal land, preventing them from leaking oil and toxic or climate-warming gases. But the updated rule will still leave taxpayers on the hook for hundreds of millions of dollars. (Mark Olalde and Nick Bowlin, ProPublica)

They clean up after natural disasters. Now they’re getting sick: Disaster workers are left to fend for themselves after rebuilding American cities after natural disasters because the loosely regulated disaster industry ignores worker safety. (María Inés Zamudio, Nour Saudi, and Roxana Aguirre, Center for Public Integrity)

Francis Scott Key Bridge Collapse

Baltimore City claims “negligence” in lawsuit against the Dali, the ship that caused Key Bridge collapse: Baltimore is seeking to hold the owners and managers of the cargo ship fully liable for the disaster. A Federal Reserve report found that the resultant shipping delays have not led to widespread price increases as had been feared. (Adam Thompson and Cristina Mendez, CBS News)

Israel-Hamas War

U.S. cites a litany of rights violations in Israel, Gaza and West Bank: The State Department’s annual human rights report cited several reported rights violations committed in Israel, the West Bank, and Gaza in 2023 by the Israel Defense Forces, Hamas, and the Palestinian Authority. (Missy Ryan and Michael Birnbaum, Washington Post)

Universities struggle as pro-Palestinian demonstrations grow: Officials at campuses across the country are running out of options to corral protests that are expected to last the rest of the school year. (Alan Blinder, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: “Antisemitic, unconscionable, and dangerous”: White House responds to chaos at Columbia (Kelly Garrity, Politico)

Dobbs Aftermath

Abortion data wars: States and cities debate how much information to collect: The information that state and city governments collect about abortion patients is becoming another flashpoint in the country’s bitter divide over the issue. (Pam Belluck and Emma G. Fitzsimmons, New York Times)

🔎 See Also: Biden moves to shield patients’ abortion records from GOP threats (Dan Diamond and Rachel Roubein, Washington Post)

Patients are being denied emergency abortions. Courts can only do so much: What qualifies as a life-threatening medical emergency in one state may not be enough in a different state, and even hospitals within the same state can look at an identical case and reach different conclusions. (Alice Miranda Ollstein and Megan Messerly, Politico)

Russia-Ukraine War

Next Ukraine package to be larger than normal, include armored vehicles: Pentagon officials are still putting the finishing touches on the potential new tranche, but they want it to be ready to go soon after President Biden signs off on a bill to provide tens of billions of dollars in additional aid. (Lara Seligman and Lee Hudson, Politico)

🔎 See Also: In Ukraine, new American technology won the day. Until it got overwhelmed (David E. Sanger, New York Times)

In 2 years since Russia’s invasion, a U.S. program has resettled 187,000 Ukrainians with little controversy: Unlike most U.S. immigration policies, the resettlement of tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees in America has occurred with resounding efficiency and relatively little controversy or backlash. (Camilo Montoya-Galvez, CBS News)

Defense and Veterans Affairs

The Army National Guard owes thousands of former soldiers unpaid bonuses. It’s asking them to figure it out: Thousands of former Army National Guard soldiers received letters from the government asking them to figure out whether they’re owed unpaid bonuses. The vague correspondence essentially asks them to jump through bureaucratic hoops to find out whether they’re owed anything. (Steve Beynon,

Why are we silent about military spouse substance abuse?: Given the deployments, long work hours, and other demands of uniformed life, military spouses may be more at risk for developing dangerous coping mechanisms than the average American. (Jennifer Barnhill,

Senate Veterans’ Affairs chair calls for more mental health care providers in rural areas: Citing ProPublica’s reporting, Senator Jon Tester asked VA Secretary Denis McDonough to increase the number of mental health care providers and ensure they are “in locations where veterans need them most.” (ProPublica)

The Pentagon’s 30-year lobbying swindle: For nearly three decades, the Pentagon has used taxpayer money to send military officers to work for the top military contractors through a fellowship program. A new report casts doubt on the integrity of the program, calling it a “de facto lobbying tool” for private companies and a “taxpayer-funded revolving door.” (Freddy Brewster, The Lever)

Business and Finance

Climate change is coming for your insurance: As extreme weather wreaks havoc on communities nationwide, homeowners are facing an insurance crisis. Some states are responding by deregulating insurance markets. (Lois Parshley, The Lever)

“Pay later” lenders have an issue with credit bureaus: “Buy now, pay later” loans surged in popularity during the pandemic, when they helped fuel an online-shopping boom. But economists warn that “phantom debt” from these loans could create substantial problems for the consumer and the broader economy. (Jordyn Holman and Ben Casselman, New York Times)

Opinion: The legalization of sports gambling in the U.S. was a mistake: The real threat to sports and the livelihoods of billions of fans lies with the leagues, special interests, and media outlets integrating gambling with the games. The profit-seeking corporate encouragement of this behavior needs to be countered with strict federal regulation before an emerging public health crisis gets even worse. (Bhaskar Sunkara, The Guardian)


AI-generated child sexual abuse material may overwhelm tip line: A new flood of child sexual abuse material created by artificial intelligence is threatening to overwhelm the authorities already held back by antiquated technology and laws, according to a new report. (Cecilia Kang, New York Times)

Health Care

Biden administration finalizes controversial minimum staffing mandate at nursing homes: The mandate requires that all nursing homes that receive Medicare and Medicaid funding provide a total of at least 3.48 hours of nursing care per resident per day. Some consumer advocates say the rule doesn’t go far enough. (Tami Luhby, CNN)

Unsheltered people are losing Medicaid in redetermination mix-ups: Federal health officials have warned Montana and other states against disenrolling high rates of people for technicalities. They also warned about unreasonable barriers to accessing help. (Aaron Bolton, KFF Health News)

Scientists fault federal response to bird flu outbreaks on dairy farms: In the month since federal authorities announced an outbreak of bird flu on dairy farms, they have repeatedly reassured the public that the spate of infections doesn’t impact the nation’s food or milk supply and poses little risk to the public. Yet the outbreak may be more serious than originally believed. (Apoorva Mandavilli and Emily Anthes, New York Times)


Immigration and Border Security:

Biden weighs giving legal status to immigrant spouses of U.S. citizens

Some migrants flown by DeSantis to Martha’s Vineyard qualify for victim visas, feds say

Other News:

Trump co-defendant in classified documents case was told he’d be pardoned in a second term, notes in FBI interview say

When it comes to government planes and political trips, who pays for a president’s campaign travel?

New federal rule bars transgender school bathroom bans, but it likely isn't the final word

Upcoming Events

📌 Under the Microscope: Examining FinCEN’s Implementation of the Corporate Transparency Act. House Committee on Small Business. Tuesday, April 30, 10:00 a.m., 2360 Rayburn House Office Building.

Hot Docs

🔥📃 Levin Center for Oversight and Democracy: Earth Day Panel Discussion: Natural Disaster Spending Oversight. April 21, 2024(VIDEO)