House Overwhelmingly Votes To Slam The Backdoor Shut On The NSA!
from the big-win dept
A week ago, we told you that there were plans for a very important amendment to slam the backdoor shut on the NSA’s use of backdoor searches, as well as mandates for backdoors in technology. On Wednesday, we asked you to call your Representatives to support the Amendment. The story got almost no other press. And yet, last night, the amendment passed by an overwhelming majority, 293 to 123. And it was also an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote: Republicans voted for it 135 to 94, and Democrats voted for it 158 to 29. Go take a look at the vote results in the link above — and if your Representative voted Aye, please go thank them for standing up to protect your privacy and 4th Amendment rights from the NSA. You can use the Sunlight Foundation’s new Congressional email system. Separately, a huge shoutout goes to Reps. Zoe Lofgren, Thomas Massie and James Sensenbrenner for putting together this amendment in the first place. As we noted earlier this week, Sensenbrenner’s support on the bill is perhaps the most striking, as it’s a clear rebuke to House leadership for watering down his own USA Freedom Act.
As we stated, this amendment only fixes two specific problems. It stops the very questionable use of “backdoor searches” of information collected under the Section 702 program. This is the very questionable setup by which the NSA spies on Americans while insisting that they don’t actually spy on Americans. It also blocks the NSA from mandating that any technology companies create backdoors in their software or hardware to enable wiretapping (such as the NSA forcing Skype to no longer be encrypted end-to-end).
In many ways, this is more important as a symbolic gesture than for the specifics — but it should have a much wider impact as well. This is the first time that Congress has overwhelmingly voted to defund an NSA program. Last year’s Amash Amendment came very, very close to defunding a different program (the Section 215 bulk records collection program), but by passing by an overwhelming margin, this vote is a pretty big sign that the House (on both sides of the aisle) is not happy with how the NSA has been spying on Americans. As mentioned above, it’s also a big slap in the face to the White House and certain members of the House leadership who conspired to water down the USA Freedom Act a few weeks ago, stripping it of a very similar provision to block backdoor searches.
While this particular Amendment is far from a sure thing (it still needs to make it through a Senate equivalent and then the White House), it is quite important as a sign that the House really is fed up with the NSA’s surveillance and how the USA Freedom Act process went. It should serve as a warning to the Senate, which is now considering its own version of the USA Freedom Act, that passing a similarly watered down version is simply not acceptable.
This is one step forward in a big process, but it is a big milestone. For the first time since the Snowden revelations began, the House overwhelmingly voted to defund some NSA practices. Once again, if you’re an American, I urge you to look over the list of Aye votes, and send a thank you to those Representatives who took a stand for your privacy and against the NSA last night.