Obama administration got a hard-fought victory in the first Congressional showdown over the N.S.A.’s surveillance activities since Edward J. Snowden’s security breaches last month. Conservative Republicans leery of what they see as Obama administration abuses of power teamed up with liberal Democrats long opposed to intrusive intelligence programs. http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/25/us/politics/house-defeats-effort-to-rein-in-nsa-data-gathering.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20130725 The Obama administration made common cause with the House Republican leadership to try to block it.
Representative Jerrold Nadler, Democrat of New York and a longtime critic of post-Sept. 11 counterterrorism efforts, said lawmakers would keep coming back with legislation to curtail the dragnets for “metadata,” whether through phone records or Internet surveillance. At the very least, the section of the Patriot Act in question will be allowed to expire in 2015, he said. “It’s going to end — now or later,” Mr. Nadler said. “The only question is when and on what terms.”
Representative Mike Rogers of Michigan, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, promised lawmakers that he would draft legislation this fall to add more privacy protections to government surveillance programs even as he begged the House to oppose blanket restrictions.
It would have limited N.S.A. phone surveillance to specific targets of law enforcement investigations, not broad dragnets. It was only one of a series of proposals — including restricting funds for Syrian rebels and adding Congressional oversight to foreign aid to Egypt — intended to check President Obama’s foreign and intelligence policies.
Representatives Justin Amash, a libertarian Republican from Western Michigan, framed his push as a defense of the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition against unreasonable search and seizure, and he found a surprising ally, Representative F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Republican of Wisconsin and one of the principal authors of the Patriot Act. Mr. Sensenbrenner said his handiwork was never meant to create a program that allows the government to demand the phone records of every American.
“The time has come to stop it,” Mr. Sensenbrenner said.
The divisions in Congress seemed to reflect the ambivalence in the nation. In a CBS News poll released Wednesday, 67 percent of Americans said the government’s collection of phone records was a violation of privacy.
“This is only the beginning,” Rep. John Conyers, Jr. vowed after the vote. The fight will shift to the Senate, where two longtime Democratic critics of N.S.A. surveillance, Mark Udall of Colorado and Ron Wyden of Oregon, immediately took up the cause.
NSA chief Gen Keith Alexander spent Tuesday lobbying Congressmen to vote against the proposed measure. Critics say NSA phone data collection is an unwarranted invasion of privacy. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-us-canada-23430126
House of Representatives Republican Congressman Justin Amash has introduced an amendment to a defence spending bill, which would block funding for the NSA’s programme to collect details of every call made by or to a US phone. “My amendment blocks funding of NSA’s collection of personal data if that data does not pertain to a person under investigation.”
House Democrats John Conyers and Jared Polis supported the move, which they said “makes sure that innocent Americans’ information isn’t needlessly swept up into a government database”.
“We urge the House to reject the Amash amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.”
NSA head Gen Alexander held separate, closed-door sessions with Republicans and Democrats on the eve of the vote in an attempt to persuade them to vote against.