Congress Should Support Amash Amendment Just Because White House Statement Is So Insulting

from the don't-take-that-kind-of-crap dept

Last night, we wrote about the pure insanity of the White House’s statement against the Amash Amendment, which would pull funding from the NSA for just the “dragnet” surveillance efforts, in which it collects all metadata on all phone calls. Considering that the very author of the Patriot Act insists the law was never meant to allow this kind of collection, Amash’s amendment shouldn’t be all that controversial. It’s literally him bringing the actual law back in line with what many in Congress thought the law already was. For the Obama White House to hit back by claiming that this clear fix to the law “is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process” is downright ridiculous and insulting, considering that the decision to reinterpret the law in secret was hardly the product of an “informed, open or deliberative process.”

In fact, as Marcy Wheeler points out, this statement is so insulting to Congress, that Congress should vote for the Amash amendment as a response to the White House’s claim. As she notes, this seems to be the White House blaming Congress for not being “informed, open or deliberative” in responsing to the administration’s own efforts to mislead Congress by keeping them not fully informed, with a secret process, that guaranteed many were kept in the dark. To then flip that around and blame Congress as if it was Congress who wasn’t being open is downright insulting:

Hell, if I were a self-respecting member of Congress, I’d support Amash-Conyers even if I weren’t already predisposed to, if only because this is such a crazy bat-shit claim to reason and openness.

The Executive Branch has had 7 years to have an open debate. It chose not to have that open debate. Now that one has been brought to it by Congress, it pretends Congress is the one at fault for the lack of informed or open process.

Of course, Wheeler makes another good point in that same post. The fact that the White House put this statement out, even after the NSA did a full court emergency lobby extravaganza to convince Congress not to support the amendment, at least suggests that the White House is realizing that there might really be enough votes to get this amendment through.

President Obama claimed he “welcomed this debate.” He might want to speed up that process, because it’s happening and all he’s doing is stalling and blaming others. But the debate is happening without him, and he might not like where it ends up.

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Comments on “Congress Should Support Amash Amendment Just Because White House Statement Is So Insulting”

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Anonymous Coward says:

It probably doesn't matter

…since even if the House does support the Amash amendment over the other one, it would still need to clear the Senate (which won’t happen — it will eitherfail or not be brought up for vote at all). And if by some miracle it clears the Senate, Obama can and will just veto the thing. The odds of a veto-proof margin are slim to none.

Sorry to be the bearer of bad news.

DCX2 says:

Re: It probably doesn't matter

The Amash-Conyers Amendment is attached to a DoD Appropriations bill. If Obama vetoes it, DoD has no money. DoD has no money, NSA can’t spy.

A veto from Obama would do far more harm than good. It would be the definition of “cutting off your nose to spite your face”

DCX2 says:

Re: Re: Re: It probably doesn't matter

Yeah, it does have to clear the Senate, too. But again, this is a “must pass” bill. And the Senate can’t start their own bill because all budget bills must originate in the House. So if the Senate doesn’t pass the House bill…well…we’re back to “DoD has no money”.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It probably doesn't matter

They must have some procedural trick to stop or change the amendment?

Anyway, just that they get to vote on this, will bring a lot of unwanted attention to those who really want the extra abilities for NSA. The fierce opposition by about half the population actually wanting to restrict the surveillance could make them vote in spite on anyone with a chance of winning against the incumbent.

Larry says:

Re: Re: Re:2 It probably doesn't matter

You folks are all technically correct on this thread right up to the “DoD has no money”.

That never happens really. What happens is “continuing resolutions” where the past year’s budget lines are approved for some limited amount of time (in FY12, there was never a budget but rather 3 or 4 CR’s that just ran the course of the year).

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: It probably doesn't matter

“If Obama vetoes it, DoD has no money”

Sorry to burst the buble here, but the President has line-item veto power. Aka, he can strip any section of a bill he doesn’t like without vetoing the whole thing. Note the “usually a budget appropriations bill” part of the intial description…


Note: the more I think about it, the more I think he’d still have to strike the whole section which likely would keep funding from going to the NSA as you have said. Depends on Congress worded it, but when it’s Congress vs the President, they’re smart enough to figure out how to give stuff the best chance to succeed…

Bryan (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: It probably doesn't matter

It really helps if you actually READ Wikipedia if you are going to reference it. Wikipedia references Clinton v. City of New York in which the Supreme Court struck down the line item veto for violating bicameralism. While I don’t agree with the decision, it is the law of the land and the line item veto is dead. So, therefore if the amendment had passed, Obama either signs or defunds the DoD.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: It probably doesn't matter

maybe but it will get more attention if it passes the house and moves to the senate. people like wyden, udall, and paul won’t let it stay dorment from there. and if Obama tries to pull a veto on this, it will get A LOT more attention than it would otherwise. “vetoing” is hardly debating, Mr. President.

Anonymous Coward says:

“Congress Should Support Amash Amendment Just Because White House Statement Is So Insulting”

No, they should not. Not for that reason anyway.

When discussing things of this importance, the last thing you want to do is to let your emotions cloud your judgement. You need to focus on facts.

I’m not saying if the Amash Amendment is a good thing or not, as I am not qualified to do that (I’m not even American). I’m just saying that you should take a rational approach, not an emotional one.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

“Congress Should Support Amash Amendment Just Because White House Statement Is So Insulting”

No, they should not. Not for that reason anyway.

You do have a point, but at some point you do need to remind the Executive Branch that you’re the checks (literally) and balances. If you let the Executive Branch just walk all over you and treat you like crap, then you won’t ever be anything more than that.

At the very least (if it were me in Congrees) I’m at the very least cutting the funding (even if it’s only 10%) after the White House’s comments. If the White House wants the money back, they can come begging for the opportunity to negotiate for it.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

Let me reinforce this point: I don’t want to take sides because I am not qualified to do so and it is not my fight.

That said.

Be careful how you choose fight bullies. If a bully just told you “DO NOT jump off that cliff” and you do, just to show him who’s boss, you aren’t gaining anything from the experience other than a few broken bones.

Again, I’m not saying that this is the case. This is just a weirdly contrived example where acting reflexively can get you hurt, even if you are acting with the best of intentions.

And don’t forget that it was acting on emotions that got you into this mess to begin with.

All I’m saying is that you should act rationally, and ignore the douchebags. I trust that in America there are mechanisms in place to deal with boneheads that overstep their bounds? Why not deploy those mechanisms instead of acting like children?

Anonymous Coward says:

When the Snowden affair started, Obama stated he was willing to have an open debate on the matter. A debate I might mention that never occurred because it was a method of stonewalling to prevent change. Here he is, now realizing it could possibly be voted into being and suddenly he’s off spouting off about open debate again. Which if believed will again never happen.

Obama’s idea of an open debate is to load the audience with his supporters for what ever issue it is, give a speech, and then call that debate with a good chance that questions won’t be allowed.

This is the same thing that has happened with the White House Press Corps. If one of them writes an article that is published and makes the administration look bad, the staff will call the reporter the next day to cuss them out. If it is serious enough they will remove the reporters press credentials for access to the White House which has happened several times already. If reporters and the news can’t question acts, then it doesn’t come to the public’s attention there is even a problem.

You see this same attitude now on display with this article.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

In the NSA's defense

The reason the NSA’s freaking out about the Amash Amendment is because it would cut the funding for their dragnet programs, yes? I guess they’re concern is technically legit, because in theory, if Congress did force the NSA to shut down the program, it would be unable to provide intel through the proper channels or more likely anonymous tip lines to other agencies (NYPD, FBI, etc, etc).

While it’s good to be up in arms about the NSA’s alleged (and statistically likely) monitoring of Americans (as well as the rest of the world, but especially Americans), before we get too worked up about things and completely tear off the lid, we need to realize that the NSA is a spy agency. Secrecy and surveillance are their bread and butter.

If we were to completely reveal all the NSA’s secrets, the US would be put at a severe disadvantage, or a “spy gap”, in comparison to the rest of the world.

So while I’d love to have a some more oversight for that behemoth of an agency (no secret courts with secret rulings and secret interpretations of the law thank you very much), I’d rather if we didn’t force the NSA to show all of its hand to everyone at the espionage poker table, spy and terrorist alike.

Wally (profile) says:

Re: In the NSA's defense

Problem is that they don’t need the amount of data they are collecting. We are not talking innocent US citizens alone, but also citizens of foreign nations. The spying was done without warranted reason.

If you read the original dockets for the Patriot Act, you will notice that only foreign people’s visiting this nation temporarily on visa or green card that have a criminal record to warrant monitoring or that have had warnings issued about them from their own nations would be spied on.

In 2008, when PRISM was started, a large number of congressmen got replaced and as a result, the house and senate switched from DNC to GOP majority. The GOP was in majority as Obama got elected, but when the PRISM program was written up, the DNC was majority House and Senate.

So to the untrained politically bias thought process of this current Administration , it looks like the Bush administration started this mess when the reality of the situation was actually started by their own willingness to lie to the entire world.

There is no excuse for Obama to bash his political opponents by saying “You Started This!” in his campaign and then turn around to not support a bill designed to tone it down…oh and to UNPROFESSIONALLY respond by spreading FUD.

Pro tip for next election season…vote for the most dull and boring person possible….it’s the sign as a free thinker.

Internet Zen Master (profile) says:

Re: Re: In the NSA's defense

Oh yeah, midterm elections are coming up next year. Let’s see if the voters remember this in a year or so (provided that Snowden doesn’t stop releasing [preferably non-critical] leaks).

As for the size of the data collection, a lot it has to do with overlapping data (as I understand it at least). Ideally, the NSA doesn’t put people under surveillance just based on one hit on a jihadist website. Ideally, they’ll look for patterns, such as repeated hits to jihadist websites a, b, c, and d, as well as calls to traditionally unstable countries in order to factor in their decision.

Emphasis on ideally here. This is the same organization that says they can’t even detect their own emails, and doesn’t have the decency to waste the ink redacting everything like the DOJ does when they’re the biggest data collectors on the planet.

Doesn’t help that they shot themselves in the foot with a drone strike right out of the gate after the leaks started coming out with the 51% ‘foreigness’ remark.

It seems like the NSA has a worse PR/Damage Control team than Microsoft.

Votre (profile) says:

Time to call it what it is and deal with it

In the wake of all the continuing revelations, and refusal to provide any substantive responses to legitimate concerns and questions, I see no reason to extend this rogue administration any courtesy or benefit of doubt.

To re-purpose former CIA anti-terrorism director Cofer Black’s now infamous words about 9/11:

All you need to know is that there was a before PRISM and there was an after PRISM. After PRISM, the gloves come off.

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