The U.S. House on Wednesday narrowly defeated a proposal to sharply restrict the National Security Agency’s phone surveillance program that was exposed by Edward Snowden.
The Obama administration and House Speaker John Boehner, unlikely allies in the sharp partisan climate in Washington, joined forces to reject the limit offered as an amendment to a defense spending bill, 217-205.
A coalition of libertarian, liberal and conservative lawmakers pushed for curbs on the blanket collection of those records, arguing that it was too broad and
The proposal forged alliances among bitter political rivals on Capitol Hill. It even prompted an unusual tactical move by the White House to weigh in on an amendment vote before debate, saying the proposal was hasty and blunt and would dismantle a counterterrorism tool.
House Republican leaders tried several ways to stave off a vote, but agreed under pressure from many conservatives eager for public debate.
A breakdown of the tally showed 134 Republicans voting with 83 Democrats to reject the measure offered by the Michigan odd couple of sophomore Republican Rep. Justin Amash and 25-term Democratic Rep John Conyers.
Boehner, who as speaker rarely votes on the House floor, opposed it as did House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi.
But 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats supported it.
Amash told reporters his amendment was “about the American people versus the elites in Washington.”
He maintained that NSA program represented “a clear violation” of Fourth Amendment protections regarding warrants.
Amash said he was simply working to ensure the government was following the original intent of the Patriot Act, the anti-terror law that authorized increased government surveillance powers after 9/11.
Top Republicans argued against the measure, with chairs of the House Intelligence, Judiciary, and Appropriations committees circulating a letter saying it would have “unintended consequences for the intelligence and law enforcement communities.”
National security pressure
National security officials personally appealed to House members, hoping to derail the vote. They have said phone and e-mail surveillance have helped thwart terror plots.
President Barack Obama also has stressed that the NSA was not using the surveillance program to listen in on phone calls; that it only collected metadata, including numbers, times of calls and dates.
James Clapper, the nation’s top intelligence official, released a statement before the vote noting that he had joined others in opposing the measure.
New York Democratic Rep Jerry Nadler, a critic of the original provisions on data collection in the Patriot Act, said he wasn’t persuaded by the warnings from the administration. He voted for the amendment.
“I never dreamed it would ever be used for dragnet surveillance of every American phone call, even if only for metadata. And frankly that’s way beyond what Congress intended,” he said.
The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank often cited by Republicans, released an analysis that warned the amendment would “increase the risks of terrorist attacks by limiting the scope of court-ordered foreign intelligence collection and thereby depriving the U.S. of valuable intelligence it currently collects.”
But at a monthly forum sponsored by Heritage that features some of the House’s most conservative members, that argument didn’t sway many members. Eight of the nine lawmakers on the Wednesday panel, which included Amash, said they planned to vote for it.
Rep Michele Bachmann, a leader of the tea party movement on Capitol Hill, broke with fellow conservative lawmakers, saying the NSA program collects phone records from telecommunications companies not individuals, so there is “no expectation of privacy.”
A member of the House Intelligence Committee, Bachmann warned that “if we take this program and remove from the United States the distinct advantage we have versus any other country it would be those that would be seeking to achieve the goals of Islamic Jihad who will benefit from by putting the United States at risk.”
The defense spending bill now moves to the Senate, but that chamber has not considered its version yet in committee or scheduled a floor vote. But in the Senate, there is little support for making major changes to the NSA program.
Before the vote Nadler said even this amendment failed he and other opponents of the program would continue to press for changes.
“It simply will not be renewed when it expires in 2015. It’s going to end – now or later. The only question is when and on what terms.”
Unacceptable. This is another bullshit protection racket for fun and profit and everyone knows it. Stupid threats about “Islamic Jihadists” winning if we don’t surrender our Constitutional rights are NOT going to stand. I think the NSA spying is being mostly used for financial gain and entertainment, not to stop a handful of fake terror attacks which were mostly instigated by a secret Nazi element of our otherwise great intelligence community. We must not give up real liberty for false protection.
Therefore, I call for an immediate massive mental spitball attack on the United States House of Not Representing Us. Visualize each of these traitors being spit balled like only Hollywood could. If that doesn’t turn this around, we’ll have to keep trying until we find something that does work. Damn this gets me so fired up. There are no damn “Islamic Jihadists” in my damn neighborhood so get out of my business! Damn you.
If you think wiretapping without probable cause is acceptable, move to China or Russia. Get out of my supposed-to-be-free-country. I believe that most of the wiretappers took oaths to uphold the US Constitution. Representatives usually take their oath during the first day of a new Congress.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the Members of the several State Legislatures, and all executive and judicial Officers, both of the United States and of the several States, shall be bound by Oath or Affirmation, to support this Constitution;
— U.S. Constitution, Article VI, clause 3
If Americans were not so massively fat, lazy, sick, drugged out and screwed up they would demand the impeachment of every oath-breaker. House rejects privacy!? Time to CLEAN HOUSE.
… By banning unreasonable “seizures” of a person’s “papers,” the Fourth Amendment clearly protects what we today call “informational privacy.” Rather than seizing the private papers of individual citizens, the NSA and CFPB programs instead seize the records of the private communications companies with which citizens do business under contractual “terms of service.” These contracts do not authorize data-sharing with the government. Indeed, these private companies have insisted that they be compelled by statute and warrant to produce their records so as not to be accused of breaching their contracts and willingly betraying their customers’ trust.
As other legal scholars, most notably Yale law professor Akhil Reed Amar, have pointed out, when the Fourth Amendment was ratified in 1791 as part of the Bill of Rights, government agents were liable for damages in civil tort actions for trespass. The Seventh Amendment preserved the right to have a jury composed of ordinary citizens pass upon the “reasonableness” of any searches or seizures. Because judges were not trusted to jealously guard the liberties of the people, the Fourth Amendment restricted the issuance of warrants to the heightened requirements of “probable cause” and specificity.
Over time, as law-enforcement agents were granted qualified immunity from civil suits, it fell mainly to judges to assess the “reasonableness” of a government search or seizure during a criminal prosecution, thereby undermining the original republican scheme of holding law enforcement accountable to citizen juries.
True, judges have long been approving search warrants by relying on ex parte affidavits from law enforcement. With the NSA’s surveillance program, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court has apparently secretly approved the blanket seizure of data on every American so this “metadata” can later provide the probable cause for a particular search. Such indiscriminate data seizures are the epitome of “unreasonable,” akin to the “general warrants” issued by the Crown to authorize searches of Colonial Americans.
Still worse, the way these programs have been approved violates the Fifth Amendment, which stipulates that no one may be deprived of property “without due process of law.” Secret judicial proceedings adjudicating the rights of private parties, without any ability to participate or even read the legal opinions of the judges, is the antithesis of the due process of law. …