Amendment Blocking Backdoor Searches, Backdooring Encryption To Be Added To Defense Funding Bill

from the well-here-we-go dept

In the last few weeks, we've pointed out that the House of Representatives have been attaching a bunch of interesting amendments to appropriations bills to block surveillance. Last week, for example, there was overwhelming support for an amendment to an appropriations bill that would block funding from NIST (National Institute of Science and Technology) for helping the NSA or CIA undermine encryption. Other amendments blocked funds being used by the DOJ/FBI to force companies to put backdoors into encryption. Other amendments stripped out funding for warrantless use of stingrays.

Now, with the focus on defense appropriations, it appears that Reps. Zoe Lofgren and Thomas Massie are pushing a repeat amendment of last year's bill to block funding for two different kinds of "backdoors" used in surveillance. You can see the amendment here.

There are two key parts to this. The first would block Defense funds from being used for so-called backdoor searches of information collected via the infamous Section 702 "upstream" collection program. We knew that the NSA felt that it was fine to sniff through these so-called "incidental" collections of information, but as we learn more and more about how they do so, the more worried we should be. These backdoor searches are a way for the NSA to spy on many people without ever needing to get a warrant -- and this amendment would block that in cases where the government is searching for information on a US person through that database of info:
Except as provided in subparagraph (b), none of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act may be used by an officer or employee of the United States to conduct a search of a collection of communications acquired under section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1881a) in an effort to find communications of a particular United States person (other than a corporation).
The second part of the amendment would block funding for having the federal government demand products have backdoors in them:
Except as provided in subsection (b), none of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act may be used by an officer or employee of the United States to mandate or request that a manufacturer, developer, or seller of covered products design or alter the security functions in its product or service to allow the surveillance of any user of such product or service, or to allow the physical search of such product, by any agency.
There is some overlap with some of those earlier amendments we talked about from last week, but from different funding bills, so these are an important way to make sure funding for such programs doesn't continue via other channels. Last year, this was the amendment that passed overwhelmingly, surprising many in the intelligence community. And there are some indications that it has even more support this year, as more and more Representatives area aware of intelligence community abuse of surveillance powers. Unfortunately, last year, this amendment was later stripped out, but if support for it continues to grow it'll be impossible to block it forever.
Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: backdoor, backdoor searches, defense appropriations, encryption, funding, nsa, section 702, surveillance, thomas massie, zoe lofgren

Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread

  1. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Jun 2015 @ 8:30pm

    (other than a corporation)

Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter

Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt

Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Discord

The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...

Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.