It’s been an unusually busy week at the House of Representatives.
First, Representative Kevin Yoder and Representative Jared Polis’ bill requiring law enforcement to have a warrant when obtaining emails got a majority co-sponsorship, and now the House has passed an amendment that will limit surveillance programs at the National Security Agency.
The House voted 293-123 in favor to defund the program yesterday.
The amendment, attached to the Fiscal Year 2015 Department of Defense Appropriations Act (House Resolution 4870), would stop funding for searches of information on U.S. citizens in government databases. If this bill passes, the NSA would also no longer be allowed to require or request “backdoors” from private companies or organizations – meaning no more easy access to your emails, chats, and browser history.
Last year, Germany’s Der Spiegel got a hold of documents from whitsleblower Edward Snowden showing that the nation’s spy agencies has planted software to get special access to disk drives, computers, and routers from some of America’s top tech companies.
“The American people are sick of being spied on,” said co-sponsor Thomas Massie (R-KY), who brought forth the amendment with Silicon Valley favorite Zoe Lofgren (D-CA).
The House has generally been more aggressive against the NSA, with a bill passed in May to effectively end the controversial mass collection of Internet and phone data.
Not everyone was thrilled with the move. “This amendment would create a blind spot for the intelligence community tracking terrorists with direct connections to the U.S. homeland,” said Chairmen of the Judiciary Committee, Bob Goodlatte. “Such an impediment would put American lives at risk of another terrorist attack.”
As we’ve noted before, since Congress is in an election year, it’s unlikely anything major will become law; the bill still needs to pass the reluctant Senate and then be signed into law by President Obama.
But after the election, when Congress is likely to take up the NSA issue with renewed priority, this bill sends a strong message that at least half of the the legislative branch wants a dramatic overhaul of the nation’s spying practices.