Rep. Justin Amash has a plan to rollback unconstitutional snooping by the super-secret agency
July 24, 2013
Edward Snowden’s revelations of Stasi state surveillance by the NSA have led to belated action in Congress to clip the agency’s wings.
The House of Representatives is expected to vote today on an amendment proposed for next year’s defense appropriations bill that “bars authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act” by the super-secret agency.
“None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to collect tangible things (including telephone numbers dialed, telephone numbers of incoming calls, and the duration of calls) pursuant to an order under section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1861) if such things do not pertain to a person who is the subject of an investigation described in such section,” the amendment reads.
The amendment was introduced by Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash, who is described as a libertarian, and liberal Michigan Democrat Rep. John Conyers.
The threat posed to the government’s unhindered power of surveillance is being taken seriously by the NSA, the Obama White House, and leaders from the House and Senate Intelligence committees, who strenuously condemn the amendment.
Amash responded to criticism with a tweet:
Do Members of Congress want to go on record supporting unconstitutional, blanket collection of all Americans' phone records? We'll find out.
— Justin Amash (@repjustinamash) July 24, 2013
On Tuesday, NSA boss Gen. Keith Alexander hurriedly scheduled a last-minute, top secret, members-only briefing to push back against the amendment. “In advance of anticipated action on amendments to the DoD Appropriations bill, Ranking Member C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger of the House Intelligence Committee invites your Member to attend a question and answer session with General Keith B. Alexander of the National Security Agency,” the invitation states.
Although the White House rarely comments on legislation prior to action on the floor of the House or the Senate, Obama spokesman Jay Carney had sharp words for the proposed amendment. “This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process,” the White House remonstrated in a prepared statement. “We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.”
Supporters of the NSA’s unconstitutional surveillance have rushed to defend the agency and condemn Amash’s amendment. Michigan Republican Mike Rogers, the chairman of the House Intelligence committee, teamed up with other GOP chairmen and issued a letter demanding lawmakers reject the Amash amendment.
“While many members have legitimate questions about the NSA metadata program, including whether there are sufficient protections for Americans’ civil liberties,” Rogers wrote, “eliminating this program altogether without careful deliberation would not reflect our duty, under Article I of the Constitution, to provide for the common defense.”
Rep. Rogers and apologists for a high-tech surveillance and police state may claim the NSA program is legal under Article I of the Constitution, but they are mute on the agency’s conflict with the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment states inexorably: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated” and that “no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”