Bipartisan House of Representatives Votes to Limit Government Spying on Americans (Except the FBI)

Monday, June 23, 2014

Members of both political parties in the House of Representatives voted Thursday to curb the National Security Agency’s (NSA) ability to spy on Americans’ communications by taking away its funding to do so.

 

In a 293-to-123 vote, the House approved an amendment to the 2015 Defense Appropriations Act that would strip funding for the NSA to perform searches of surveillance data that target U.S. citizens and also take away money to request that hardware and software manufacturers install “back doors” into their products to make it easier for the NSA to track data.

 

The amendment was sponsored by Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin), Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) and Zoe Lofgren (D-California). “There’s no question Americans have become increasingly alarmed with the breadth of unwarranted government surveillance programs used to store and search their private data,” the three said in a joint statement. “By adopting this amendment, Congress can take a sure step toward shutting the back door on mass surveillance.”

The amendment would restore some of the protections that had been removed from the USA Freedom Act, a bill the House passed last month that would enact some restrictions on what data could be collected by the NSA. The agency currently is able to cull data about Americans’ communications from what has been gathered in the surveillance of foreign citizens’ calls and emails.

 

Thursday’s amendment and the USA Freedom Act must still be approved by the Senate and signed into law by President Barack Obama before they become law. And the legislation would affect only the NSA. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), for instance, could still attempt to have corporations install back doors in their products. “I worry that the scope…is limited,” Matt Blaze, a University of Pennsylvania computer science professor and cryptographer, told Wired. “Even when the NSA and CIA don’t request or put pressure on vendors to incorporate backdoors, other agencies, like FBI, may be in the same business.”

 

But Parker Higgins of the Electronic Frontier Foundation still applauded the vote. “This is not a trivial thing. These surveillance programs need money to survive. Without it there are hard questions ahead for the NSA,” he said.

-Steve Straehley

 

To Learn More:

House Votes To Cut Key Pursestrings For NSA Surveillance (by Andy Greenberg, Wired)

House Votes to Curb N.S.A. Scrutiny of Americans’ Communications (by Charlie Savage, New York Times)

With Support of Obama Administration, House NSA Surveillance Reform Bill Includes Gaping Loopholes (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

The Disturbing Clause not Covered by Proposed NSA Reform (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

4 Proposals to Reform NSA Human Rights Violations: Feinstein=Worst; Leahy-Sensenbrenner=Best (by Steve Straehley, AllGov)

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