Rep. Justin Amash Now Looking To Strip NSA Of Its Power To Collect Phone Data On Innocent Americans

from the telcos-will-have-to-find-a-different-way-to-ingratiate-themselves-with-the-govt dept

We recently wrote about Rep. Justin Amash’s plan to strip the NSA of funding by adding an amendment to the defense appropriations bill making its way through the house. The plan was not without its obstacles, not the least of which was a last-minute change in rules deliberately aimed at preventing actions like Amash’s.

With the open amendments process effectively nullified by the change in process, Amash has changed tactics a bit.

Representative Justin Amash of Michigan is on his way to forcing the first legislative showdown over the National Security Agency’s controversial policy of collecting the phone logs of every American.

The venue for the fight is an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill that would ban the NSA from collecting information from people who aren’t under investigation.

This one seems like it might have a better chance of surviving any pushback by Republicans hoping to shepherd the appropriations bill through the house. Even with the rules change, if Amash’s amendment is allowed to receive a floor vote, it could still end up as part of the larger bill. So far, the House Rules Committee is fighting the amendment by postponing the vote, something it did twice last week.

Even if the HRC manages to kill off the amendment by denying it a floor vote, it may find itself facing something even worse.

The catch is, if the Rules Committee doesn’t allow a vote on the amendment, Amash and a coalition of Republicans and Democrats probably have the votes to bring the whole bill down. To do so, they could vote against the “rule,” which governs debate for the bill. Those are typically party-line votes, so only a few Republicans would need to join the Democrats to defeat it.

Amash’s actions can’t be making Speaker of the House John Boehner very happy. Rather than easing through an annual DoD budget, Boehner is facing combative legislators attempting to send a message to the NSA (and to their constituents). Neither option looks particularly palatable, and thus far, the Speaker hasn’t shown he can muster a unified front, much less cross party lines like Amash can.

Amash says the amendment could get widespread support in a roll call vote. “The coalition is much broader than just libertarian-leaning conservatives and liberals. If you talk to members from across the political spectrum you’ll find widespread disapproval of what the NSA is doing…”

Either way this plays out, the NSA’s going to be perturbed. If the appropriations bill sails through with the amendment attached, it will be faced with a possible ban on part of its domestic surveillance activities. There’s little doubt the NSA will get its powers reinstated, but it will have to go through a very public battle in order to do so. In the current climate, it’s doubtful that many would leap to its defense, other than the usual suspects.

If Amash’s amendment is prevented from receiving a floor vote, the entire appropriations bill might be shot down. If that happens, and the Department of Defense’s budget is in jeopardy, you can imagine the Speaker’s office will be quickly filling up with agency heads looking to get their hands on an impotent Boehner.

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Comments on “Rep. Justin Amash Now Looking To Strip NSA Of Its Power To Collect Phone Data On Innocent Americans”

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out_of_the_blue says:

There's not an either: the NSA is not going to be perturbed.

“Either way this plays out, the NSA’s going to be perturbed.”

“very public battle in order to do so” — Yeah, that’s the true purpose of the limited hangout with Snowden! To make NSA known to the public, and show how powerful it is. Then on to the next level of tyranny.

Insufficient cynicism, symptoms of which are mentioning political parties, politicians, or supposing that The Establishment is even being slowed in its grab for absolute power, does not serve us well. Reality is grim, but you can’t even start on a solution until grasp the scale of the problem. The whole system is corrupt and every politician is on the game.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: There's not an either: the NSA is not going to be perturbed.

I have to agree with your cynical feelings but there are occasionally not only honest politicians (meaning not bribeable) ones that are insightful too.

The issue is that most people not only want honest politicians but one that will exploit the system for for them. If there is no exploitation by redirection public funds to private organizations then the people simply vote for some one else who will engage in such exploration. Then of course there are the fan boys known as pundits that reinforce this attitude in order to financially profit by declaring all such action by one group against another is fair because of some historical perceived grievance.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

An observation.
President Obama had a moment where he described how black men know exactly what its like to be in a store and be followed, and yet somehow can’t understand why the American people would be upset to have the NSA following them around just to make sure they behave.

The Government is out of control, we spend more time trying to appease small portions of society that think we need laws controlling all women’s uterus (uteruii?) and making sure that ‘traditional’ marriage is safe instead of noticing that the basic founding principles of the country are being ignored.

Anything Congress does at this point is going to be nothing but showmanship trying to appeal to the growing number of citizens who want them removed from office. Much like the insider trading revelations, where they passed laws loudly making them bound by the same laws the public face (and then nearly silently rolled those rules back) this is all to appeal to a citizenry with no attention span to make sure they don’t do it again.

Boehner and the Republicans loud complaints about the health care mandate being delayed for business, telling people how average citizens should be upset for business getting a better deal… Yet they were awfully quiet when their business friends were getting bailouts and tax breaks at the expense of the people.

I’m tired of soundbite politics, where nothing is solved after the cameras stop giving them airtime to spin tales to.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“I’m tired of soundbite politics, where nothing is solved after the cameras stop giving them airtime to spin tales to”

yes, it’s not just what they are saying Masnick, it’s WHO IS SAYING IT..

Politicians playing politics does not impress anyone unless you have a small mind, but it sure does impress Masnick.

Has anyone else noticed how this whole Snowden things has turned into a SNOWMAN things. and how main stream media has all but forgotten about it..

Left wing extremists..

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

You might want to wipe some of the spittle off your face as you seem to have mistaken me for Mike. It also let you miss this is one of Tim’s stories.

While soundbite politics are bad, sometimes it can be overcome. Look at all of the politicians who said SOPA wasn’t want everyone was calling it, yet people managed to overcome the signal to noise ratio and find out how horrible it was. It was stopped, but no one seemed to hold those responsible for pushing it to the fire.

Its time we hold them to the fire.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re:

“Look over there!” is a common political tactic, TAC. They do it to distract the electorate while they’re up to something sneaky or trying to trivialise their violations of the Constitution.

Both sides do it, the idea being that they know better than we do. But how can people who take no interest in our day-to-day struggles possibly know better than we do about anything that affects us?

For the most part, they seem to be out to line their own pockets and those of their sponsors. At our expense.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

This is why I wish data Snowden had contained dossiers on high ranking congress critters.
1 – Expose them for being the sellouts they are, and lay bare secrets.
2 – Make it blatantly obvious to even the thickest of people that what they are collecting can make the same dossier available for everyone.

Until you make it effect them, people won’t pay attention.

Joe Dirt says:

Re: look at all those republicans

“It’s sad, that the Republicans are doing their best to get back into power, no wonder everyone hates them !!!”

Do you really think the Dems are any better? You people need to stop thinking Rep. or Dem. and start realizing they are 2 sides of the same coin. I heard today that now our ceiling fans are going to be outlawed due to energy consumption. Where does it end? Our federal Government should be governing our country not trying to rule its people. They pass secret laws the public isn’t allowed to know about and then prosecute us under those laws. How freaking crazy is that? Pelosi says pass the healthcare law to find out what’s in it…. really???

It’s time to take the power back. Educate yourself, and those you care about, on the issues and vote intelligently.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: look at all those republicans

For someone saying that both Dems and Repubs are 2 sides of the same coin, you seem to have taken the Republican line on the ceiling fan thing hook/line/sinker.

They’re not going make the fan you have now illegal, and send some guy to rip it out of your ceiling, but what they’ll do is make sure new ceiling fans that are sold are more efficient.

Fact: most ceiling fans use a horribly inefficient motor that hasn’t had its overall design changed in more than 100 years.
Fact: inefficient use of energy from appliances generates waste heat, partially negating the entire purpose of a ceiling fan.
Fact: the whole energy efficiency push was started under President Bush.
Fact: the loudest Republican voice against this is our favorite representative, Marsha Blackburn from Nashville Tennessee, whose district also (totally coincidentally, I’m sure) includes the largest manufacturer of the horribly inefficient ceiling fans in the US.

Remember the push for efficiency in lightbulbs? A whole lot of whining and screaming that turned out to be nothing? Yep, and now we’re better off.

Joe Dirt says:

Re: Re: Re: look at all those republicans

Obviously you missed the forest for the trees.

The specifics of ceiling fans, or 32 oz. soft drinks, is not the issue. It’s the overreach of government in our daily lives. I’m 47 years old and I think I should be allowed to make my own decisions about what I eat and what appliances I want to buy. If they end up costing me more because they use more power, or make me fat, it’s MY choice. I refuse to live in a nanny state where every aspect of my life is monitored(NSA) and regulated(Obamacare) by the winners of a popularity contest for a government position that doesn’t live by the same laws and regulations as those they wish to rule.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 look at all those republicans

I’m missing nothing, but you and the AC above you are mistakenly labeling me as some nanny-state/facist cheerleader. I think if you bothered to look at my posting history, you’d see me as anything but.

I don’t want the government intruding into my private life, but I’m not so rabidly anti-government that I miss where the government can do positive things for society. How you live your life impacts others around you. Because the amount of energy you use (and waste) can raise the cost of the energy I consume, I think the government can impose reasonable restrictions on the efficiency of appliances. And because the energy you use comes mostly from coal fired power plants that spews pollutants (including slightly radioactive coal ash) into the air I breath, I think the government can impose those reasonable limits. It is up to society as a whole to debate and decide publicly what those reasonable limits are – society as a whole, not just you, not just me, not just the fan companies or the power companies, but all of us together.

Anonymous Coward says:

Either way this plays out, the NSA’s going to be perturbed. If the appropriations bill sails through with the amendment attached, it will be faced with a possible ban on part of its domestic surveillance activities.

Insightful analysis Masnick, but two VERY BIG “IF’s”, basically it’s not going to happen, Republicans simply don’t have the number (for one), they don’t have the political will either (another huge problem), 3) not all republicans will agree with it (let alone Dems).

4)Presidential veto – You think the executive would allow military and defence spending cut ?

But feel free to put your faith in the Reps. It’s your only hope. After all GW Bush was so “FREEDOM This !!” “Freedom that” !!!!!!

John Doe says:

The real fun will begin in a few more years

What will ultimately happen with all of this data is that the party in charge will be able to remain in charge by using embarrassing and/or criminalizing data against political foes. The party in charge can mine the data to find that a political candidate’s phone was in the same area as another woman’s phone on multiple occasions, thus suggesting an affair. Or that the candidate’s search history shows he is into kinky stuff. Or a myriad of other things. This will be fun to watch except that it will occur behind closed doors and we will never know about it. But as fun as it might be in a movie, it would ruin this country faster than the downhill slope we are already on. We are close to tyranny now, once the political blackmail starts taking place, we will have a full fledged tyrannical government.

Chris Brand says:

What I would do

Going directly after the NSA where it hurts certainly seems to be a good thing, but looking at the big picture, what stands out is the difference in attitude between the telcos and the search companies. Both are being asked to hand over large quantities of data, but at least the search companies seem to be pushing back against over-broad requests. That surely ties in with the “retro-active immunity” that the telcos were granted. Also, these huge businesses are (a) receiving the requests for data in the first place, so they are actually aware of them, and (b) the ones with the armies of well-paid lawyers on staff. Those two factors make them ideally placed to push back against the government, given the right incentive.

So what’s needed is simple – give these companies a legal obligation to protect your data, including data that you give them voluntarily and data that they generate about you. Also, don’t allow them to accept any “compensation” from the government for work done that releases any of that data.

Reverse the incentives for these businesses so that they send their lawyers to bat for their customers.

Anonymous Coward says:

I really hope the first new South Park episode is about the NSA.

I also hope they have the NSA being ran by Saddam up in heaven at his nuclear chocolate chip plant sucking up all that data. They could also have some transvestite hookers addicted to bath salt face off in a death match for the NSA’s amusement.

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