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Sensenbrenner Loses Key Backer Amash in Vote to Reform Government Surveillance

Amash says the bill, which passed despite bipartisan opposition, was “weakened in behind-the-scenes negotiations.”

by
Rod Kackley

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May 22, 2014 - 7:32 pm
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Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), one of the original co-sponsors of the USA Freedom Act that would make revisions to the Patriot Act, voted against the legislation on the floor of the House Thursday.

He explained his vote in a statement on his Facebook page, writing that the legislation had been “weakened in behind-the-scenes negotiations.”

Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), the author of the legislation, admitted changes had been made but urged those like Amash who had supported the original version not to back away from the bill in Thursday’s vote.

“I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee when we passed the Patriot Act, which made our country safer while maintaining the civil liberties that differentiate us from our enemies. But the government abused the law and upset the delicate balance between privacy and security,” Sensenbrenner said in a statement issued after the House vote.

“While I wish it (USA Freedom Act) more closely resembled the bill I originally introduced, the legislation passed today is a step forward in our efforts to reform the government’s surveillance authorities.”

The USA Freedom Act was intended to rein in the Natural Security Agency’s ability to indiscriminately spy on U.S. citizens and end the collection of Americans’ private records. The legislation would also force the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) court to operate more like a real court.

It was approved 303-121 by the House Thursday. However, many of those who had original co-sponsored it — like Amash —voted “no.”

Opposition to the legislation was bipartisan, with 51 Republicans and 70 Democrats voting against the bill.

Judiciary Committee member Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.) said, “The NSA could drive a truck through its loopholes.”

Lofgren promised during a speech Wednesday that she would vote against it.

“I think it’s ironic that a bill that was intended to increase transparency was secretly changed between the committee markup and floor consideration, and it was altered in worrisome ways,” she said.

“It’s shameful that the president of the United States, the chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and the leaders of the country’s surveillance agencies refuse to accept consensus reforms that will keep our country safe while upholding the Constitution,” Amash also wrote on his Facebook page. “And it mocks our system of government that they worked to gut key provisions of the Freedom Act behind closed doors.”

However, Amash did admit the version of the Freedom Act approved by the House does include “a few modest improvements” like forcing the FISA court to appoint lawyers to argue for Americans’ privacy rights and publish its most significant opinions “so that Americans can have some idea of what surveillance the government is doing.”

The USA Freedom Act does codify many of the surveillance reforms that had been supported by the Obama administration.

Amash also wrote the bill would still allow the federal government to issue an order for sweeping records collection without probable cause. The NSA could, for instance, issue an order to collect all phone calls “made east of the Mississippi.”

Amash was one of the very few members of Congress the American Civil Liberties Union received any support from as the civil rights organization began its concerted effort to block the powers of the NSA a year ago after Edward Snowden’s leaks.

Top Rated Comments   
"I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee when we passed the Patriot Act, which made our country safer while maintaining the civil liberties that differentiate us from our enemies. But the government abused the law and upset the delicate balance between privacy and security,” Sensenbrenner said in a statement issued after the House vote.

That's what most in government do. You give them an inch, they take a mile. It's that way about 99% of the time and there was no reason to think this would be in the 1% exception to the rule. And of course with Obama, he takes several miles and then denies that he knew a thing about it until he heard about it on TV much later..
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
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All Comments   (3)
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Sensenbrenner is proud of his Patriot Act legislation. The old man
has been in D.C. too long to serve any useful purpose, as has his
Patriot Act.
All legislation should come with a 5 to 10 year sunset provision. The provision is not to be reviewd by a politician or the enforcing bureaucy but by what I call a commission similar to the Grace Commission.
This review board, composed of citizens [not political cronies], named by the President,
is reponsible for the audit and review of the effectiveness of the
legislation and bureaucracy. If the commission returns to verdict
of ineffectiveness, the money train stops. End of the bureaucracy and the legislation and all regulations are redundant and tossed.

8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
Here's a terribly, terribly politically incorrect but modest proposal:

Let's have a total immersion "National Security Awareness Month" for these august Congress-persons [....those who're not known Muslim agents, some of them must have had security clearances, right?] and have each of the Committee members sit right there at the random elbows of the NSA guys/gals as they randomly monitor whatever it is that they monitor, sift through right there with them while whatever it is that is being sifted through is done in real time, experience first-hand 24/7 what exactly is involved, and do this for at least thirty days, with a day off every sixth day or so.

These vote-counting politicians with an ever ready ear cocked towards the mutterings of their constituents and how their tenure will be affected have a major conflict of interest.

That conflict centers around their tenure in office versus their responsibility for our national safety. They simply can't have both tenure in office awarded by our new demographic while at the same time our Nation remains under surveillance by our Muslim self-declared, multi-time self declared enemy, along with the Russian, North Korean, and Chinese non-formally declared enemies.

George Orwell has been so over-mentioned during Obama's time in office that maybe it's time to see the applicability of Franz Kafka. We're going insane as we keep up these congressional theatrics.


8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
"I was chairman of the Judiciary Committee when we passed the Patriot Act, which made our country safer while maintaining the civil liberties that differentiate us from our enemies. But the government abused the law and upset the delicate balance between privacy and security,” Sensenbrenner said in a statement issued after the House vote.

That's what most in government do. You give them an inch, they take a mile. It's that way about 99% of the time and there was no reason to think this would be in the 1% exception to the rule. And of course with Obama, he takes several miles and then denies that he knew a thing about it until he heard about it on TV much later..
8 weeks ago
8 weeks ago Link To Comment
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