Another Vote to Defund NSA Surveillance Programs?
August 18, 2013 - 11:27 am
Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash told CNN’s State of the Union that he would push the House for another vote to defund the NSA telephone and internet surveillance programs. An effort in the House last month fell short by just 12 votes, 217-205.
Since then, the revelation that thousands of violations of privacy rules occurred in the NSA programs have roiled Congress, angering even many Democrats. Amash thinks that because of those revelations, another vote would by successful.
“I’m hopeful that we’ll have another opportunity,” said Amash on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “It might not be exactly the same amendment.”
A measure from Amash which would have prevented the NSA from collecting phone records of American citizens not under investigation for any crimes was narrowly defeated last month in the House.
Amash, though, vowed Sunday to continue efforts to curb the NSA’s powers.
“I’m hopeful that we’ll have a way to amend some kind of policy legislation in the future,” he said.
The vote on Amash’s amendment came before the most recent leak by Edward Snowden, which detailed an NSA audit that found thousands of instances in which the privacy of Americans had been violated in the agency’s effort to gather intelligence.
Amash said that he’s confident many of his House colleagues would change their vote in light of the new revelations and that his measure would stand a better chance at passage.
He said the American public and lawmakers are becoming increasingly aware of how flawed the NSA’s programs are, emphasizing that Congress needs to take steps to increase its oversight of intelligence gathering operations.
“The system’s not working,” said Amash. “Americans were told by the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee that there were zero privacy violations and we know that’s not true.”
Meanwhile, Virginia Republican Morgan Griffith told the Washington Times that “more like 20-30″ members would be willing to switch their vote:
“We only needed seven votes to switch and I think there were at least seven, probably more like 20-30, who had their concerns about the program but were prepared to give the intelligence agencies the benefit of the doubt,” Rep. Morgan Griffith, Virginia Republican, told The Washington Times after the NSA rules violations came to light.
The House in late July voted 217-205 to defeat an amendment that would have cut funds for domestic data gathering by the NSA except where based on individualized suspicion.
Mr. Griffith says that the intelligence community, which defended the program and worked to preserve it against the legislation onslaught, misled Congress.
“We were being told there were ‘some’ errors, like a few,” Mr. Griffith said, referring to sworn congressional testimony about the domestic programs from senior intelligence, FBI and Justice Department officials. “They gave everyone the impression these [errors] were very rare. If [my colleagues] had realized how many [violations of privacy protection or legal rules] there were, I think more than seven of them would have switched.”