House to vote on amendment to limit NSA funding

After some wrangling with Speaker John Boehner, Rep. Justin Amash’s amendment to the FY 2014 defense spending bill that would reinforce already existing limitations on the National Security Agency (NSA) will come to the floor for a vote as early as tomorrow.

This controversial part of the 2001 anti-terrorism law allows intelligence and law enforcement agencies to access third-party records pertaining to an investigation into criminal activity. News broke early last month that the NSA has used this authority under the PATRIOT Act to gain access to virtually every Americans’ phone records, even if they aren’t suspected of wrongdoing.

Just last week, it looked as though Amash’s amendment wouldn’t be approved for debate by the House Rules Committee. If House leaders kept the amendment off the floor, it’s possible that the entire defense spending measure would have been held up. This led to Amash and Boehner — the two have some rocky history — working together to forge a workable amendment that could be brought to the House floor for a vote.

Amash tweeted out his gratitude to Boehner for bringing the amendment out of committee and to the the floor for an up or down vote:

The revised amendment offered by Amash would deny funding to execute a FISA court order that isn’t specific to a person who is the subject of an investigation. It would also require the order to state that it is in line with the limited legal authority provided under the law: “This Order limits the collection of any tangible things (including telephone numbers dialed, telephone numbers of incoming calls, and the duration of calls) that may be authorized to be collected pursuant to this Order to those tangible things that pertain to a person who is the subject of an investigation described in section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1861).”

While testifying on the amendment before the Rules Committee, Amash explained that the NSA’s surveillance of innocent Americans “not a partisan issue. It’s something that cuts across the entire political spectrum.” There is bipartisan support for the amendment, as co-sponsors include Reps. John Conyers (D-MI), Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), Jared Polis (D-CO), and Thomas Massie (R-KY). A spokesman for Boehner told BuzzFeed that he doesn’t support the amendment.

The Wall Street Journal reports that President Barack Obama, who has defended the NSA’s surveillance, opposes the defense spending bill.

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