In a very unsurprising turn of events, the White House press secretary Jay Carney announced that the White House is urging Congress to reject the amendment introduced by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) that would keep the National Security Agency from collecting data on anybody who is not a suspect or under investigation.
According to the WH press secretary, the amendment to HR 2397 is an attempt by Amash to “hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism tools.” He asked Congress to reject the measure and “move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.”
While Amash’s amendment is meant to only defund programs asking FISA court orders related to persons who are not under investigation, the White House seems to be using all tools available to discourage congressmen to break up the bipartisan support Rep. Amash has received.
Liberty-minded Republicans and liberal Democrats have expressed their intent to support the amendment that has been co-sponsored by Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY), Mick Mulvaney (R-SC), John Conyers (D-MI), and Jared Polis (D-CO). According to Justin Amash’s spokesperson Will Adams the team believes it has all the votes necessary. “We’re very optimistic that we have the votes to get it across the finish line.” He continues “support began with the American people and has filtered through to members of Congress.”
With a letter stating that “eliminating this program altogether without careful deliberation would not reflect our duty, under Article I of the Constitution, to provide for the common defense,” House Intelligence Committee Chairman Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI) and six other leaders decided to lobby House members and convince them to say no to Justin Amash’s amendment.
If the amendment doesn’t pass, the NSA will continue to seize records under the Section 215 of the Patriot Act whenever the agency deems any data relevant to an ongoing investigation.
Apologists defend the NSA and its controversial programs by claiming that data collected by the agency does not include actual content of people’s phone calls. While this might seem like a debate over our right to privacy alone, we must keep in mind that the NSA snooping is a symptom of a much larger problem. When lawmakers passed the PATRIOT Act in 2001, extraordinary powers were handed over to the executive branch, which bred the type of intrusive programs that are now under attack after former government contractor Edward Snowden leaked information regarding the NSA’s snooping.
The House is expected to vote on Amash’s amendment today.