House Votes To Block Backdoor Searches And To Block Backdooring Encryption

from the let's-do-this-once-again dept

Last night, we noted that an amendment from Reps. Thomas Massie and Zoe Lofgren was on the docket that had two provisions to stop two different kinds of surveillance: the first, taking away funding from "backdoor searches" which are a hugely problematic "loophole" that the NSA uses to do warrantless surveillance of Americans. In many ways, this is much worse than the bulk collection programs that were just hindered by the USA Freedom Act. The second part of the amendment was barring funds from being used to mandate "backdoors" into technology products -- another hugely important move. Thankfully, the amendment passed by a wide margin earlier today: 255 - to 174.

While this is great news, I'm somewhat surprised and disappointed that the margin of victory here was lower than a nearly identical amendment last year (which was approved 293 to 123. It's possible that some of last year's votes were in protest to the falling apart of the USA Freedom Act a year ago -- whereas since it passed this year, some felt it was okay to shift their vote here. Still, in many ways, this has the potential to be a much bigger deal and much more important than the USA Freedom Act, because those backdoor searches are a huge problem.

Of course, it's still a long way from making it into law. As we saw last year, this amendment was quietly dropped later in the year, as part of the giant "CRomnibus bill" that the government needed to pass. Still, we can hope that Congress finally recognizes how important this is.

Filed Under: backdoor searches, backdoors, congress, encryption, nsa, section 702, thomas massie, zoe lofgren


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  1. icon
    Bamboo Harvester (profile), 12 Jun 2015 @ 5:39am

    What's the point?

    Does it really matter what laws, addenda, or amendments are passed?

    They're going to continue to do it *anyway*. There are no penalties that can be applied to any of the Intelligence or Regulatory agencies. Cutting funding is a joke to them - they either move money from another area or get an "emergency funding" from Congress to continue on.

    And people don't realize just how the 4th works - it does NOT protect you from warrantless searches - it simply means that anything collected during such a search can't be used IN COURT as evidence against you. Look at what's been going on with police seizures - no charges filed, they take everything you own.

    For the last half century I've seen the NSA, CIA, et al before congressional "oversight" and it all goes the same way:

    Congress: Are you doing X?
    NSA: No.
    Congress: Really?
    NSA: Yes.
    Congress: So you say you're really not doing X?
    NSA: Correct.
    (Repeat about thirty times with various rephrasing until):
    Congress: Oh, come on, we know you are. Admit you're doing X.
    NSA: Ok, we're doing X.
    Congress: Well stop it!
    NSA: Sure.

    And three weeks later, a press expose on how the NSA is still doing X.

    The circus repeats every year, the only change is what illegal action "X" happens to be that year.

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