Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Narrow defeat for Amash amendment to restrict NSA surveillance



Narrow defeat for Amash amendment to restrict NSA surveillance



First major challenge to NSA's bulk collection of phone records defeated by

only 217 votes to 205 in House of Representatives


    Spencer Ackerman in Washington, Wednesday 24 July 2013 19.17 EDT         


Justin Amash, said he introduced the amendment to 'defend the fourth

amendment . to defend the privacy of each and every American'. Photo: J

Scott Applewhite/AP


The first major legislative challenge to the National Security Agency's bulk

collection of phone records from millions of Americans was defeated by only

a narrow margin on Wednesday, sending a clear signal to the Obama

administration that congressional anger about the extent of domestic

surveillance is growing.


Despite a concerted lobbying effort by the White House and senior

intelligence figures, the attempt to rein in the NSA failed by only 12

votes. The final vote was 205 in favor and 217 against, exposing deep

restiveness in Congress over the wisdom and constitutionality of the bulk

surveillance on Americans less than two months after the Guardian exposed it

thanks to leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden. A shift of seven votes

would have changed the outcome.


Civil libertarians disappointed by the vote promised not to relent in

opposing what they consider an unnecessary and unconstitutional violation of

Americans' privacy.


The principal author of the effort, Michigan Republican Justin Amash, said

he introduced his amendment to the annual Defense Department appropriations

bill to "defend the fourth amendment, to defend the privacy of each and

every American."


In opposition, the chairman of the House intelligence committee, Mike Rogers

of Michigan, asked: "Have we forgotten what happened on September 11?"

Swiping at Amash, he asked: "Are we so small we can only look at how many

Facebook likes we have?"


Congressman Mac Thornberry, a Texas Republican on the intelligence

committee, called the abridgment of the NSA's power "foolhardy," terming it

an "overreaction that increases the danger" from terrorism.


The measure, known as the Amash amendment, sought to end the NSA's

years-long secret practice of collecting the phone records of millions of

Americans unsuspected of any crime or foreign intelligence threat. Senator

Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, said the effort dangerously provided the NSA

with a "human relationship database," something as or potentially more

intrusive than the contents of Americans' phone calls.


Members of Congress of both parties opposed to the bulk NSA surveillance

compared it to general warrants issued by the British colonists. The raucous

and passionate debate exposed deep divisions in Congress over the propriety

of the surveillance, contrary to assertions by the Obama administration and

its allies that Congress had already granted its approval for the effort

before it became public.


The Obama administration, the intelligence agencies and their allies in

Congress made an all-out push to quash the amendment after it unexpectedly

made it past the House rules committee late on Monday. They argue that

accumulating the phone records of Americans is the only way to discover

connections to international terrorism inside the United States. "If you're

looking for the needle in the haystack, you have to have the entire haystack

to look through," deputy attorney general James Cole testified last week.


For four hours on Tuesday, General Keith Alexander, the director of the NSA,

implored legislators that preventing his agency from collecting the phone

records on millions of Americans would have dire consequences for national



The White House entered the fray on Tuesday night, taking the unusual step

of publicly objecting to a proposed amendment to a bill. Hours before the

House began consideration of the Amash amendment, the US director of

national intelligence, James Clapper, warned legislators that "acting in

haste to defund the Fisa business records program risks dismantling an

important intelligence tool."


Clapper called for an "open and candid discussion about foreign surveillance

authorities and careful consideration of the potential effect of limiting

the Intelligence Community's capabilities under these authorities." Earlier

this month, Clapper apologized to the Senate intelligence committee for

untruthfully testifying in March that the NSA was "not wittingly" collecting

data on millions of Americans.


While most contentious House votes in recent years have been marked by

partisanship, the Amash amendment crossed party lines. Obama was joined in

opposing Amash by seven Republican committee chairmen in the House, the Wall

Street Journal, the conservative thinktank the Heritage Foundation, and an

array of Bush-era national security officials, some of whom helped design

the phone-records collection program.


"Denying the NSA such access to data will leave the nation at risk," read a

letter to Congress signed by retired general Michael Hayden, the former NSA

director and chief architect of the warrantless surveillance; former

attorneys general Alberto Gonzales and Michael Mukasey; former CIA director

and House intelligence committee chairman Porter Goss; former director of

national intelligence John Negroponte; Freedom House trustee Diana Villers

Negroponte; and former National Security Adviser Stephen Hadley.


For his part, Amash, a Republican, was joined by a coalition of libertarian

Republicans and progressive Democrats. His amendment's principal Democratic

ally was longtime Michigan representative John Conyers, the ranking member

of the House judiciary committee. Applause broke out from either side of the

party aisle for speakers both for and against the Amash amendment.


Conyers called the amendment an effort merely to "curtail the ongoing

dragnet" surveillance, supported by congressman James Sensenbrenner, a

Republican and principal sponsor of the Patriot Act under which the NSA

claims authority for its bulk phone records surveillance.


"The time has come to stop it," Sensenbrenner said.


Joe Barton, a Texas Republican, said it was "simply wrong" for the NSA,

which he called well-intentioned, to "collect the data in the first place of

every phone call of every American every day."


Meanwhile, a Democratic leadership announcement of the Amash amendment

described the bulk phone records collection program as harvesting data from

people "not already subject to an investigation." Democratic leader Nancy

Pelosi voted no.


In opposition to the Amash amendment, Tom Cotton, an Arkansas Republican and

Iraq war veteran, said, "Folks, we are at war. You might not like that

truth. I wish we were not at war. But it is the truth."


Ahead of the vote, Mike Pompeo, a Kansas Republican, offered a seeming

alternative to Amash's amendment, albeit one that "clarified" NSA could

collect no content from Americans rather than abridge the NSA phone records

collection. It was supported by surveillance hawks to forestall Amash's

"knee-jerk" effort, said Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the

intelligence committee.


It succeeded by a wide margin, having 15 minutes for members to vote.

Legislators had only two minutes to vote for the Amash amendment.



(F)AIR USE NOTICE: All original content and/or articles and graphics in this

message are copyrighted, unless specifically noted otherwise. All rights to

these copyrighted items are reserved. Articles and graphics have been placed

within for educational and discussion purposes only, in compliance with

"Fair Use" criteria established in Section 107 of the Copyright Act of 1976.

The principle of "Fair Use" was established as law by Section 107 of The

Copyright Act of 1976. "Fair Use" legally eliminates the need to obtain

permission or pay royalties for the use of previously copyrighted materials

if the purposes of display include "criticism, comment, news reporting,

teaching, scholarship, and research." Section 107 establishes four criteria

for determining whether the use of a work in any particular case qualifies

as a "fair use". A work used does not necessarily have to satisfy all four

criteria to qualify as an instance of "fair use". Rather, "fair use" is

determined by the overall extent to which the cited work does or does not

substantially satisfy the criteria in their totality. If you wish to use

copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use,' you

must obtain permission from the copyright owner. For more information go to:









No comments:

Post a Comment