Video: NSA, White House getting worried about defunding vote in House

posted at 10:01 am on July 24, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

And they should. CBS reoprts that NSA Director Keith Alexander made an “emergency visit” to Capitol Hill to head off a potentially embarrassing vote to defund his agency’s trawling of phone and Internet records. House Republican leaders allowed a vote on an amendment by Rep. Justin Amash to use the power of the purse to rein in the NSA, and the panic shows that the effort might well succeed in the Senate when the budget comes to the upper chamber:

With a high-stakes showdown vote looming in the House, White House press secretary Jay Carney issued an unusual, nighttime statement on the eve of Wednesday’s vote. The measure by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., would cancel statutory authority for the secret program, a move that Carney contended would “hastily dismantle one of our intelligence community’s counterterrorism tools.”

Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, made a last-minute trip to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to urge lawmakers to reject the measure in separate, closed-door sessions with Republicans and Democrats. Seven Republican committee chairmen issued a similar plea in a widely circulated letter to their colleagues.

An unlikely coalition of libertarian-leaning conservatives and liberal Democrats says the program amounts to unfettered domestic spying on Americans. Amash and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., are the chief sponsors of an amendment that would end the ability of the NSA to collect phone records and metadata under the USA Patriot Act. Instead the agency would only be allowed to gather data on specific individuals under investigation, CBS News congressional correspondent Nancy Cordes reported on “CBS This Morning” Wednesday.

Amash said his measure tries to rein in the NSA’s blanket authority. Responding to the White House statement, the congressman tweeted late Tuesday:

Republican leaders allowed the House to consider Amash’s amendment to a $598.3 billion defense spending bill for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

Amash seems to be on the popular side of this fight, at least according to the WaPo/ABC poll. Almost three-quarters of respondents think the NSA goes too far, and a plurality believe it doesn’t make the country any safer:

Nearly three-quarters of Americans say the NSA programs are infringing on some Americans’ privacy rights, and about half see those programs as encroaching on their own privacy. Most of those who see the programs as compromising privacy say the intrusions are unjustified.

The percentage of Americans who put a higher priority on privacy protections than the investigation of terrorist threats has more than doubled in a decade and has hit the highest point in any Post-ABC News poll dating back to summer 2002. Today, about four in 10 say it is more important to protect privacy even if that limits the government’s ability to investigate possible terrorist threats.

Some of the discomfort stems from doubts that the programs are making the United States safer. Only 42 percent say the programs make the country safer. More, 47 percent, see the programs as making little difference in the country’s security. And 5 percent say they actually make the nation less safe.

The emergency meetings should have been with the American people, and with lawmakers to improve oversight.  The series of rationalizations and term-parsing since the Snowden revelations hasn’t built confidence in the NSA’s protestations of integrity, especially after the way Alexander and DNI James Clapper have misled Congress in the past about these programs.  For better or worse, they are reaping what they have sown.


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Defund it. Shut it down until it can be thoroughly reviewed, debated and revised in regular order.

petefrt on July 24, 2013 at 10:03 AM

O/T: Congress to probe lethal SEAL crash:

http://thehill.com/homenews/house/313039-congress-to-probe-lethal-seal-crash

Cleombrotus on July 24, 2013 at 10:06 AM

The NSA has the world’s largest Extortion List, which includes:

- every phone call you and your family have made for the last 5 years

- every website you and your family have visited for the last 5 years

The phone has been around over 100 years, and no President ever collected your phone logs.

faraway on July 24, 2013 at 10:07 AM

This has to be a tease. Please follow through on this one. And then start the process for defunding obozoscare and almost every other bureaucracy.

Flange on July 24, 2013 at 10:08 AM

Defund Obamacare while you’re at it.

DRayRaven on July 24, 2013 at 10:08 AM

I’d be shocked if this actually happens. Although if it does, I’m sure other departments in the rat nest will pick up the slack.

Fenris on July 24, 2013 at 10:11 AM

If Congress is unable to defund it, at least make the data inadmissible in court except in the case of Treason.

meci on July 24, 2013 at 10:12 AM

Maybe our side can defund out of control government to the extent that the budget would be balanced. Sweet.

NOMOBO on July 24, 2013 at 10:12 AM

Defund Washington DC.

kirkill on July 24, 2013 at 10:15 AM

Wow, what a change. It used to be that even the budgets for NSA were secret.

Ward Cleaver on July 24, 2013 at 10:18 AM

They can defund it all they want but the NSA and DHS will just shift other black funds they have over to the program.

Once a program like this gets started, you can never really kill it or cut it back.

TXUS on July 24, 2013 at 10:19 AM

and the panic shows that the effort might well succeed in the Senate when the budget comes to the upper chamber

LOL. When was the last time the Senate even contemplated any House budget, let alone bothered bringing it up for a vote? Back in 1841?

ThePrimordialOrderedPair on July 24, 2013 at 10:19 AM

Put me in the plurality that thinks what the NSA is doing doesn’t enhance our security.

However, I’d like to add that the NSA does serve a valuable purpose and I would be opposed to a knee jerk reaction to this that would actually make it harder for us to defend ourselves.

From what I see though, this amendment is a responsible one. It limits the expansive uncontrolled data gathering, but still allows the surveillance of specific individuals.

I’m on board as long as the amendment does what it actually claims to do.

Chris of Rights on July 24, 2013 at 10:20 AM

So many threats in the past by the GOP and so little to show for it. I don’t expect anything different this time. In reality we need an intelligence agency. But I get tired of hearing about the sophistication of espionage work and need for secrecy when you have been caught trolling every phone call, email missive , credit card transaction, internet site visit of every single law abiding citizen in the United States. Doesn’t seem like a strategy focused on the highest suspects of terrorism but then again frisking 90 year old grandmothers and prepubescent children at the airport doesn’t seem much like an antiterrorism strategy either.

DaveDief on July 24, 2013 at 10:22 AM

General Alexander and DNI Clapper committed PERJURY, on camera and in front of the whole nation. They should be worried, the fact that these fascist goons are calling Snowden a criminal is beyong chutzpah!

abobo on July 24, 2013 at 10:22 AM

Start defunding this nonsense, rain in the power of the federal government. There is no need – no need – for a Constitutional Republic to have a secret court that issues general warrants.

MoreLiberty on July 24, 2013 at 10:23 AM

Is that the same Jay Carney that called the IRS, Benghazi scandals “phoney”..?
Why does the NSA need so much data storage space..?

d1carter on July 24, 2013 at 10:24 AM

I’d be shocked if this actually happens.

Agreed. I’ve already contacted my Rep, Kevin Brady from Texas, and asked him to support it. Ofcourse that dolt is nothing less then a neocon who has voted time and again to raise the debt ceiling and even voted for the NDAA of 2012.

MoreLiberty on July 24, 2013 at 10:25 AM

Did Snowden do this..?

d1carter on July 24, 2013 at 10:26 AM

Why does the NSA need so much data storage space..?

d1carter on July 24, 2013 at 10:24 AM

So they can store OFA’s source info.

faraway on July 24, 2013 at 10:26 AM

Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, made a last-minute trip to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to urge lawmakers to reject the measure in separate, closed-door sessions with Republicans and Democrats.

Sorry but Alexander and his boss, Clapper, lied to Congress. Asked point blank if the NSA was spying on Americans they said no. For that reason alone I support Justin Amash’s amendment to take away blanket authority to spy. The NSA and whole FISA process has lost any expectation of unquestioning trust.

Happy Nomad on July 24, 2013 at 10:28 AM

The computer in your car now tracks your speed.

faraway on July 24, 2013 at 10:30 AM

So many threats by the GOP in the past and so little to show for it. I am not expecting much. I recognize that we need an intelligence agency. But I am tired of hearing how sophisticated espionage work is and the need for secrecy when you have been caught trolling every phone call, email missive, credit card transaction, internet site visit of every law abiding citizen in the United States. Doesn’t much seem like a focused strategy on ferreting out prime terrorism suspects. But then again they frisk 90 year old grandmothers, nursing mothers and prepubescent girls at domestic airports.

DaveDief on July 24, 2013 at 10:31 AM

This is the first I’ve heard of this defunding effort.

We need to let more people know that this is hapoening.

KMC1 on July 24, 2013 at 10:35 AM

They didn’t seem to keen on changing things on their own after they were exposed.

Now that the faucet is threatened to be turned off they come scrambling out of the woodwork to change.

I don’t buy it.

This is proof positive of the power of the purse. Congress should use it more often.

weaselyone on July 24, 2013 at 10:39 AM

Is it just me, or do others believe that there will be no budget passed…..just a never ending series of CR’s?

Buck_Nekkid on July 24, 2013 at 10:41 AM

It appears our prezzy pivot has created the transparency he said he would. We are the ones who have no clothes.

Kissmygrits on July 24, 2013 at 10:42 AM

I think the NSA needs to learn they have to do a better job on balancing security with the constitution. A funding decrease may just help them think about dropping the parts that unconstitutionaly compromises privacy. From what I’m reading there are a number of other Fed and local agencies that need the same wake up call.

TerryW on July 24, 2013 at 10:48 AM

The NSA’s #1 priority is to protect – - – the NSA.

Any representative that votes against this bill should be suspected as being a target of blackmail by this agency.

If not reigned in, there will come a time when a representative who supports the NSA will use it to get information on an reelection opponent who doesn’t.

kurtzz3 on July 24, 2013 at 10:49 AM

Is it just me, or do others believe that there will be no budget passed…..just a never ending series of CR’s?

Buck_Nekkid on July 24, 2013 at 10:41 AM

HotAir needs to take a poll to find out. I predict 70/30 agree with you.

Fenris on July 24, 2013 at 10:50 AM

Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, made a last-minute trip to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to urge lawmakers to reject the measure in separate, closed-door sessions with Republicans and Democrats.

Sorry but Alexander and his boss, Clapper, lied to Congress. Asked point blank if the NSA was spying on Americans they said no. For that reason alone I support Justin Amash’s amendment to take away blanket authority to spy. The NSA and whole FISA process has lost any expectation of unquestioning trust.

Happy Nomad on July 24, 2013 at 10:28 AM

That’s a solid point. I certainly don’t want to cripple the NSA, but there has to be some restructuring to ensure effective Congressional oversight.

In fact, we need to make it much harder for the executive branch to hide anything from the legislative branch. Perhaps we need some system like the Inspectors General, but funded by and loyal to Congress, and vested with the authority of Congress to probe executive agencies under suspicion.

There Goes the Neighborhood on July 24, 2013 at 10:51 AM

Good start, now do the same with Obamacare and the IRS. Wish we could de-fund the DOJ.

neyney on July 24, 2013 at 11:03 AM

Seeing as they caved on Syria (which was much much harder to justify), color me skeptical that anything is truly in danger of getting defunded.

See also: Agriculture bill and helium program

ChrisL on July 24, 2013 at 11:12 AM

But but but, Snowden accomplished nothing, NOTHING beneficial to Law Abiding American Citizens… I know, because, well, um, because people said so! He is a traitor. The fact is that out of all the whistle-blowers on this subject, of which there have been many, he is the ONLY one to keep it front and center to the point that POLITICAL PRESSURE is mounted to work and get the government to stand down.

astonerii on July 24, 2013 at 11:13 AM

Like other here have mentioned, I’m skeptical that these rat ba$tards will actually defund it.Time and time and time again we have been lied to by these people, especially the establishment’$ get-along crowd. Defund this, defund Obamacare, defund the Department of Education, defund TSA, defund the Dept of Ag….

MoreLiberty on July 24, 2013 at 11:22 AM

Worried? Are you serious? Why? This Congress couldn’t defund Planned Parenthood. They defund NOTHING.

rrpjr on July 24, 2013 at 11:24 AM

I’m sick of polls, one day their up and one day their down. You can’t legislate based on polls. I’m sick and tired of Senators and Congressmen going on talk shows to “get your listeners to call their representatives because we need the American people behind us”. I’m sick of the Constitution and Bill of Rights being used when it’s convenient and ignored when it gets in their way. How about they DO something and stop passing the buck. They are the ones who have all the power, but maybe not. With all the spying going on, who knows whose got what on who.

lea on July 24, 2013 at 11:24 AM

The original authors of the Patriot Act have declared the way the bill was supposed to be used is NOT what is happening now. A GOP member, supported by a bi-partisan group, have submitted a bill calling for the end of a nation-wide spying program that collects just about every personal communication and financial record and more on every American citizen to STOP. Instead, spying should only be allowed on those American citizens suspected of a crime!

The NSA should be willing to agree to this, especially after the NSA Lead admitted under oath before Congress that they had conducted wire tap operations on Americans without acquiring the appropriate legal authorization to do so(thus breaking the law).

The original way the Patriot Act was supposed to work was to monitor all foreign communications coming into the US from foreign nations and any suspected/suspicious communications going out of the US to foreign locations. The program has iince been put on ‘proverbial steroids’, to the point now where the government spies on EVERY American citizen.

This NOT George Orwell’s 1984, This is not a totalitaria, Socialist, banana republic police state! These people swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution and the Law, not to violate those whenever they see fit to and then try to justify it!

Shut ‘er down!

easyt65 on July 24, 2013 at 11:29 AM

HOORAY!

Please restore my faith and shut these freaks down.

John the Libertarian on July 24, 2013 at 11:41 AM

And forbid the use of drones over America except in the case of a clear and declared national emergency while they’re at it.

profitsbeard on July 24, 2013 at 11:59 AM

How many people trust our representatives in DC to do what the majority of the people want? That would be an interesting number. I personally don’t trust them at all to do the right thing, which would be to defund their shenanigans and leave us alone. Secret courts should be abolished as well.

scalleywag on July 24, 2013 at 12:04 PM

And forbid the use of drones over America except in the case of a clear and declared national emergency while they’re at it.

profitsbeard on July 24, 2013 at 11:59 AM

Decided by some politicians and approved of by a secret court….not

MoreLiberty on July 24, 2013 at 12:14 PM

WH has nothing to be worried about.

You are being enslaved by all in DC.

Schadenfreude on July 24, 2013 at 12:37 PM

Defund Ocraponmecare and allow NSA one more year, just to show your willingness to compromise with the Dimwits…

hillsoftx on July 24, 2013 at 12:39 PM

Looks like I maybe taking a different opinion on this NSA stuff but let’s get it right. It is not the gathering of information that it is the problem. Just as guns and bullets are not the problem in shootings. It is the potential for People to miss use those tools for their own value that is the problem.
We see this every day in the news. Shootings here, Killings there. Government probes of IRS, ATF and any other 3-4 letter anarchism you can think of.

You also see the good use of these same tools. The rapid response and capture of the Boston Bombers comes to mind.

If by any stretch of the imagination I have the ability to change any thinking in this , it would be to keep people focused on “It is NOT the tools that have the potential for being bad.”, “It’s the keeping of bad people from miss using those tools that we must consider.” Unfortunately it looks like the threat of miss use by our own government for political gains may be a provable reality.

jpcpt03 on July 24, 2013 at 12:47 PM

jpcpt03 on July 24, 2013 at 12:47 PM

Actually you are wrong. The collection of all records is the problem. There is no need for it. The only reason to have it is for bad people to abuse it. The tool is the ability to get information from the companies the provide the services to us civilians. That ability is there, it is present, and the government can use it.

astonerii on July 24, 2013 at 1:09 PM

astonerii on July 24, 2013 at 1:09 PM

Forgot to finish. The fact that the database exists already indicates that bad people are in charge of it. The NSA is a foreign intelligence group, not a domestic one.

astonerii on July 24, 2013 at 1:21 PM

if we want our 4th Amendment rights back, they need to defund and repeal the Patriot Act

burserker on July 24, 2013 at 3:04 PM