Nancy Pelosi Saved The NSA Surveillance Program; Now She Should Help Kill It
from the okay,-second-chance dept
As we pointed out yesterday, there was a bizarre group of Democratic congressional reps who apparently followed the lead of Nancy Pelosi in voting against the Amash Amendment to defund the NSA program to collect all of your phone data despite the fact that those same Representatives had voted against that very same program a couple years ago. We pointed out that it was clearly Pelosi’s lead that made the others follow — and it was likely that Pelosi was responding to great pressure from the White House. Now ForeignPolicy.com confirms that it was Pelosi’s actions that “saved” the NSA surveillance program, noting that her lobbying was much more effective than NSA boss Keith Alexander’s “private briefing” for Congress.
“Pelosi had meetings and made a plea to vote against the amendment and that had a much bigger effect on swing Democratic votes against the amendment than anything Alexander had to say,” said the source, keeping in mind concerted White House efforts to influence Congress by Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. “Had Pelosi not been as forceful as she had been, it’s unlikely there would’ve been more Democrats for the amendment.”
“Pelosi had a big effect on more middle-of-the road hawkish Democrats who didn’t want to be identified with a bunch of lefties [voting for the amendment],” said the aide. “As for the Alexander briefings: Did they hurt? No, but that was not the central force, at least among House Democrats. Nancy Pelosi’s political power far outshines that of Keith Alexander’s.”
Of course, the oddity here is that Pelosi has been a vocal critic of these programs in the past. And now that plenty of Pelosi supporters are quite pissed off that she effectively blocked the Amash Amendment, she appears to be trying to jump right back to that critic position:
“Well, I didn’t vote for the PATRIOT Act the last time it was up,” she said today, at her weekly press briefing. “I don’t want anybody to misunderstand a vote against the Amash resolution yesterday.”
At the briefing, she emphasized her current effort circulating a letter for members to sign expressing concern over how metadata is collected.
While the cynical among you can rightly mock this position — of voting to save the NSA spying program and then immediately claiming you’re against it — this could turn out to be a good thing. For whatever it’s worth, the Amash amendment was a blunt instrument and attaching it to an appropriations bill might not have been the best way to go about stopping the NSA surveillance plan. The fact that the amendment was seven votes away from passing suggests that a more careful approach has a much higher likelihood of passing, and it might happen soon. If the Amash Amendment had received very few votes, this would be dead. But with it so close, there’s enough momentum that a followup has a chance.
So, Nancy Pelosi may have saved the NSA spying on Americans yesterday, but now she has the very real ability to kill it. The question is whether or not she’ll follow through.