US lawmakers vote against legislation to curb NSA's spying program

In Washington, the House voted against legislation [PDF] that would have stopped the National Security Agency from gathering vast amounts of phone records. Here's a breakdown of which reps were for and against, so our US readers can see how their elected representative voted. The result handed the Obama administration "a hard-fought victory in the first congressional showdown over the N.S.A.'s surveillance activities since Edward J. Snowden’s security breaches last month," write Jonathan Weisman and Charlie Savage in the New York Times:

The 205-to- 217 vote was far closer than expected and came after a brief but impassioned debate over a citizen’s right to privacy and the steps the government must take to protect national security. It was a rare instance in which a classified intelligence program was openly discussed on the House floor, and the issue led to some unusual coalitions. Conservative Republicans leery of what they see as Obama administration abuses of power teamed with liberal Democrats long opposed to intrusive intelligence programs. The Obama administration made common cause with the House Republican leadership to try to block it.

House members pressing to reign in the N.S.A. vowed afterward that the outrage unleashed by Mr. Snowden’s disclosures would eventually put a brake on the agency’s activities. Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and a longtime critic of post-9/11 counterterrorism efforts, said proponents will keep coming back with legislation to curtail the dragnets for “metadata” — whether through phone records or Internet surveillance. At the very least, the section of the Patriot Act in question will be allowed to expire in 2015.

From the Washington Post:

The plan, sponsored by Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), would have restricted the collection of the records, known as metadata, only when there was a connection to relevant ongoing investigations. It also would have required that secret opinions from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court be made available to lawmakers and that the court publish summaries of each opinion for public review.

Conyers said the proposal “would curtail the ongoing dragnet collection and storage of the personal records of innocent Americans.”

As Charlie Savage at the NYT reported yesterday, the White House led a last-minute, concentrated effort to kill it. “This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process,” read a statement from the White House.
Gen. Keith B. Alexander, the N.S.A. director, met with Democrats and Republicans to lobby against a proposed amendment to a military appropriations bill that would stop the financing for its phone data collection program. The Republican-sponsored legislation is one of the first Congressional efforts to curb the agency’s domestic spying efforts since they were leaked by Edward J. Snowden, a former N.S.A. contractor. Later on Tuesday, the White House issued a statement praising the idea of a debate about surveillance but denouncing “the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle” the call tracking program, urging lawmakers to vote down the legislation and instead conduct a “reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.”

A copy of the legislation is here [PDF].

There's little optimism that a similar measure would have make much headway in the Senate.

(thanks, Aileen Graef)

Notable Replies

  1. Jhen says:

    What I find strange is that there is a similar push to maintain big data pools on consumers by a variety of corporations - a data pool that, in turn will be tapped by the Government.
    This issue warrants greater concern from the public, IMHO.

  2. I think some representatives shouldn't really be called representatives if they don't bother to represent their constituency. Or, at the very least they should put the logos of Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin and Boeing, etc. on their foreheads to make it clearer whose side they're really on.

  3. What surprises me in this case is that the (lame-ass), House even took this up as an issue. The result is not to my liking, but wow, who knew they were even aware of what the public is thinking about. Go figure.

  4. Someone on HackerNews pointed out that this is actually better than it looks. The folks who voted against include a good-sized group who isn't willing to block all mass domestic surveillance just yet, but would happily vote for a less broad bill; the folks who voted for are 100% percent opposed to mass domestic surveillance. What this means is that whatever slightly-less-broad bill comes along next is very likely to pass.

  5. “This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process,” read a statement from the White House.


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