A Kentucky congressman thinks the House of Representatives might finally be ready to vote for National Security Agency reform legislation “with teeth” — something, he says, House members have told him they regret not doing in the past.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.) said the overwhelming vote count in support of his amendment to prohibit the NSA from conducting warrantless searches shows that a stand-alone bill could force the president’s hand.
“I think what this shows is if we could offer a stand-alone bill, that it would pass with veto-proof majority, and it would become law even though the president generally opposes these reforms to the NSA,” Massie told TheBlaze.
The amendment, which passed 293-123 Thursday, prohibits the NSA from conducting warrantless searches of Americans’ electronic communications and denies funding for NSA and CIA efforts to install so-called “backdoors” into products to aid in surveillance. Massie championed the amendment alongside California Democrat Zoe Lofgren.
Massie told TheBlaze that after the House’s spring recess, he got several calls from other members who said they were ready to support these amendments, primarily because their constituents were asking for the reform.
“After a week back in our districts we all returned … and I heard from about half a dozen members [who said] that if they had it to do over again, they would have voted for the Amash amendment,” Massie said.
Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) introduced arguably the first major legislative challenge to the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records from millions of Americans, which was defeated only by a narrow margin: 205 in favor and 217 against.
But Massie said the tide is turning, and Thursday’s vote to approve his amendment is proof.
“I think the people get it, I think they understand that it’s a violation of the Fourth Amendment,” he said. “But what you witnessed last week was that representatives are finally catching up to where their constituents already are.”
But just hours after the amendment passed, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court gave the NSA another 90-day extension on its current bulk data collection procedures.
“Given that legislation has not yet been enacted, and given the importance of maintaining the capabilities of the Section 215 telephony metadata program, the government has sought a 90-day reauthorization of the existing program, as modified by the changes the President announced earlier this year,” a joint statement from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence and the Department of Justice read.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation called it “business as usual” for the administration.
“We’ve seen that the president has signed this 90-day order, every 90 days since the beginning of his time in office, that is just business as usual on the part of the executive,” EFF activist Adi Kamdar said. “This really just highlights the fact that we need reform, through legislation, we need reform through the courts, and why we really need the executive to really step up and realize that extending this program that is flawed on it’s basis doesn’t really help their cause.”
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