Security

Defund the NSA just fails to de-fang made-in-America spying

Image Credit: Capital photo via Shutterstock

The DefundTheNSA amendment has failed, just barely. But it came close enough to passing to make the men in black wet their panties.

Today Congress was voting on the Amash amendment, legislation that would have added language to the U.S. Patriot Act blocking funding for any NSA programs that use Section 215 of the Patriot Act as legal justification to collection the call records — and likely much more — of Americans, en masse.

In other words, it was designed to defund the PRISM program that has implicated the U.S. government and key technology companies in spying on Americans and galvanized nationwide protests.

Almost half the members of Congress — 205 — voted to pass the amendment, but 217 voted against it. Clearly, Congress is deeply divided, and not just along traditional partisan lines, about NSA surveillance of American citizens.

“While we lost the vote, the fact that over 200 representatives were in support of the amendment, despite lobbying by the NSA and strong opposition from the White House, sends a really strong message,” privacy advocate Sina Khanifar said in an email. “Just seven votes in the other direction would have ended the NSA’s bulk collection of phone records — a fact that must be scaring many proponents of the program in government. And a majority of Democrats voted for the amendment, opposing the White House’s stance.”

For once, Republicans voted with President Barack Obama.

Those in favor of the amendment were 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats, while 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats were opposed. That’s ironic, given the fact that the sitting president, who is of course a Democrat, forcefully opposed the legislation.

“With just one day to organize grassroots, it’s a pretty amazing outcome, and to my knowledge the biggest rebuke of the NSA and Patriot Act’s overreaching surveillance measures yet.”

The DeFundTheNSA website helped galvanize web-based reaction to the vote, driving at least 6,000 calls to House representatives, Khanifar said. It was set up in just five hours by the Rapid Response Internet Task Force that Khanifar has established with involvement from the EFF, Free Press, Mozilla, Fight for the Future, and other organizations.

The bi-partisan legislation was sponsored by Justin Amash (R-MI) and four other representatives.