The coalition gathered nearly 600,000 signatures in support of a letter to Congress asking that it “take immediate action to halt this surveillance and provide a full public accounting of the NSA’s and the FBI’s data collection programs.”
A provision sponsored by Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and John Conyers (D-Mich.) was narrowly defeated in July by a 205-217 vote. The amendment would have restricted the NSA surveillance program that collects the phone data of people in the U.S.
Amash was there to receive the boxes full of petitions from the coalition and to talk about his efforts to bring more accountability to the NSA. He said the amendment has scared the establishment of both parties and has prompted the NSA to fight back by urging Congress to pass the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), which the agency believes will legalize its surveillance programs.
“We had the intelligence community against it, we had Republican and Democratic leadership against it, and despite all those obstacles we came very close to passing the amendment. And we’re gonna pass something to rein in the NSA,” he said.
Former Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) urged Congress to repeal the Patriot Act and abolish the NSA.
“The so-called ‘War on Terror’ is a war of errors and misdeeds which produced the Patriot Act,” Kucinich said. “The Patriot Act gave rebirth to the NSA. The agency has grown stronger as it collects more of our personal information, while our Constitution grows weaker.”
Next week, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) is expected to introduce a bill, known as the USA Freedom Act, which would create more transparency and accountability in the NSA. Sensenbrenner, who was the primary author of the Patriot Act, has also backed the Amash-Conyers amendment.