NSA “cheerleaders” in Congress divert spying bill away from opponents in “highly unusual” legislative move
March 27, 2014
Lawmakers who approve of the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ communications data have been accused of intentionally sidelining those in Congress who oppose the practice by re-routing the new surveillance bill through the Intelligence committee rather than the Judiciary Committee.
The legislation, which would see significant alterations to the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, will now be primarily overseen by the chamber’s Intelligence Committee, a move some say represents a deliberate circumventing of vocally critical representatives in the Judiciary Committee, which has long presided over the intelligence community’s broad legal authority.
“Many of our members are pretty outraged,” one staffer said. “They’re trying to undermine this committee’s clear jurisdiction, as the debate we’re having is on civil liberties and constitutional rights.”
The aide added that the move puts NSA reform in “the hands of its biggest cheerleaders.”
To give you an idea of how horrible the House Intel NSA "reform" bill is: Peter King, Michelle Bachmann, and John Boehner all support it.
— Trevor Timm (@trevortimm) March 26, 2014
Rep. Jerrold Nadler, on the Judiciary Committee, issued a statement yesterday saying he was “deeply concerned that today, for what appears to be the first time ever, a FISA reform bill has been sent first to the House Intelligence Committee.”
“The House Judiciary Committee must assert its critically important role with regard to Fisa reform efforts so as to ensure that our constitutional liberties are properly protected as we seek to promote national security,” Nadler added.
“The House Judiciary Committee must be the primary Committee at the center of this reform.” Nadler argued.
Another Judiciary congressional aide said it was “new and different that a bill that amends Fisa wouldn’t come to us first.”
The aide also made it clear that the surveillance bill, authored by Republican Mike Rogers of Michigan and Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, does not go far enough to restrict the NSA’s powers.
“The committee will take the bill introduced by Mike Rogers and Dutch Ruppersberger into consideration, but it’s clear that reforms to the bulk telephone data collection program need to go further than those made in their bill.” the aide said.
Several ciritics have suggested that the bill could, in fact, make it EASIER for the NSA to operate in the same way as it has been.
It is feasible now that the Rogers/Ruppersberger bill could go to the House floor without going before the Judiciary Committee at all.
The bill broadly aligns with President Obama’s recommendation to have telecommunications companies retain the data, rather than the NSA. Rogers and Ruppersberger are both staunch advocates of the NSA, and have declared support for the NSA’s bulk data collection.
A further reason for cutting out the Judiciary Committee is that it is a stronghold of support for the USA Freedom Act, a direct rival bill that goes further to reign in the NSA. The bill is supported by vocal NSA critics including Republican Rand Paul, and Democrats Ron Wyden and Mark Udall.
The USA Freedom Act would see the end of NSA bulk data collection, and put into place more protective provisions, including the need for prior approval from a judge, should the government try to force phone companies to turn over customer data. It would also see the implementation of a threshold requirement of relevance to an ongoing investigation to secure such approval, as well as limitations of some of the NSA’s other programs, including surveillance of overseas Internet traffic.
In short, the Judiciary Committee bill goes much further than the Intelligence Committee bill, leading many staffers to believe that this is the reason for the attempted re-routing of the issue away from the judiciary panel.
Steve Watson is a London based writer and editor for Alex Jones’ Infowars.com, and Prisonplanet.com. He has a Masters Degree in International Relations from the School of Politics at The University of Nottingham, and a Bachelor Of Arts Degree in Literature and Creative Writing from Nottingham Trent University.