Video: NSA audit revitalizing Amash amendment?

posted at 12:01 pm on August 19, 2013 by Ed Morrissey

Earlier this summer, Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) offered an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have cut off funding for the NSA’s surveillance program on American telecommunications.  His amendment picked up a surprising level of bipartisan support, enough to worry the White House into actively lobbying against it a month ago.  The amendment failed by a mere twelve votes — but that was before an internal audit by the NSA showed thousands of violations every year by the agency in its surveillance, with little or no consequences. The chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Dianne Feinstein, insisted that she’d never even heard of the audit.

CNN’s Candy Crowley asked Amash yesterday on State of the Union whether he will float the amendment again after this revelation.  Amash replied that it will have to come in another form, as the appropriation bill targeted by his first attempt has already passed, but that he expects to try again very soon:

Amash isn’t the only one looking for a do-over:

The revelation that the National Security Agency broke court-imposed privacy rules thousands of times a year in snooping Americans’ phone and email records would have changed the outcome of last month’s House vote to defund the program, according to one legislator who was part of the effort.“We only needed seven votes to switch and I think there were at least seven, probably more like 20-30, who had their concerns about the program but were prepared to give the intelligence agencies the benefit of the doubt,” Rep. Morgan Griffith, Virginia Republican, told The Washington Times after the NSA rules violations came to light. …

“We were being told there were ‘some’ errors, like a few,” Mr. Griffith said, referring to sworn congressional testimony about the domestic programs from senior intelligence, FBI and Justice Department officials. “They gave everyone the impression these [errors] were very rare. If [my colleagues] had realized how many [violations of privacy protection or legal rules] there were, I think more than seven of them would have switched.”

Well, then, isn’t it fortunate for the CIA that the audit hadn’t come to light by that point in time?  It’s that kind of coincidence that John Fund says is driving the impulse for greater oversight — and also the serial prevarications from the Obama administration about the nature of the program:

A veteran intelligence official with decades of experience at various agencies identified to me what he sees as the real problem with the current NSA: “It’s increasingly become a culture of arrogance. They tell Congress what they want to tell them. Mike Rogers and Dianne Feinstein at the Intelligence Committees don’t know what they don’t know about the programs.” He himself was asked to skew the data an intelligence agency submitted to Congress, in an effort to get a bigger piece of the intelligence budget. He refused and was promptly replaced in his job, presumably by someone who would do as told.

The response to all of this by some NSA supporters is to point out that the nation hasn’t been attacked in the dozen years since 9/11. As someone who stood on the street across from the World Trade Center as it collapsed on 9/11, I can appreciate how we must strive to prevent similar atrocities in the future.

But steadfastness must be accompanied by a clear understanding of the role of bureaucracies. General Keith Alexander, the current head of the NSA, toldCongress in June that data “gathered from these programs provided government with critical leads to prevent over 50 potential terrorist events in more than 20 countries around the world.” But my veteran intelligence-agency source says that no one can be sure if that’s the case: “The NSA grades its own report card, and it wouldn’t be the first bureaucracy to exaggerate its effectiveness.” Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon, a moderate Democrat who has been on the Intelligence Committee since 2001, said in a speech last month: “I have not seen any indication that the bulk phone-records program yielded any unique intelligence that was not also available to the government through less intrusive means.” Presumably, NSA would have shared such positive evidence with the intelligence committees.

It was Senator Wyden who famously asked Director of Intelligence James Clapper last March, before the Snowden revelations, whether the NSA collected “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.” Clapper’s response was pretty clear: “No, Sir.” When pressed, Clapper amended his answer to “not wittingly.” He later told NBC News that he had given the “least untruthful” answer he could think of. He should have done what previous officials have long done and said he could fully respond only in a closed session. At least one of our top intelligence officials doesn’t display intelligence as often as he should.

Other top officials have made such a hash of explaining each new NSA revelation that even staunch national-security conservatives are beginning to wonder what else we don’t know. “The proper response to the latest revelation is not panic but deep frustration and a demand for data that does more than get the NSA through a news cycle,” writes Jennifer Rubin, the Washington Post’s conservative blogger. “It must be more forthcoming, or it will lose its mandate.”

The only way to end the arrogance is for Congress to reassert its oversight responsibilities over a program that has clearly gone off the rails in that regard.  If it takes stripping the NSA of funds to bring it to heel, then Amash is on the right track — and, I suspect, more of his colleagues will agree with that the second time around.


Related Posts:

Breaking on Hot Air

Blowback

Note from Hot Air management: This section is for comments from Hot Air's community of registered readers. Please don't assume that Hot Air management agrees with or otherwise endorses any particular comment just because we let it stand. A reminder: Anyone who fails to comply with our terms of use may lose their posting privilege.

Trackbacks/Pings

Trackback URL

Comments

It appears that the NSA is in need of rebuke and consequences to their actions, and the Patriot Act is in serious need of dialing back some of the provisions. Unfortunately the intelligence community lacks scruples and has no problem lying to Congress.

Dasher on August 19, 2013 at 12:06 PM

Peter King is a horse’s ass. Enough of these “internal audits.”

John the Libertarian on August 19, 2013 at 12:07 PM

In that time more representatives have been blackmailed into voting for the NSA and against anything that restricts them.
We really cannot trust anyone so long as the NSA or any branch of the government can mass collect information on citizens.

Wasn’t the 202 area code where these politicians talk on the phones one of the places that the “error” occurred?

astonerii on August 19, 2013 at 12:10 PM

Peter King is a horse’s ass. Enough of these “internal audits.”

John the Libertarian on August 19, 2013 at 12:07 PM

Yeah, I saw him on Fox News Sunday yapping about ‘internal audits’ that ‘demonstrate’ that there was no wrongdoing whatsoever at the NSA, just inadvertent “mistakes” made that were totally caught and corrected internally.

I took everything he said to be a big fat f*cking lie.

Harbingeing on August 19, 2013 at 12:12 PM

The amendment will pass only after a GOP president is elected.

Dems are using it as the World’s Largest Extortion Tool right now.

faraway on August 19, 2013 at 12:13 PM

The amendment will pass only after a GOP president is elected.

Dems are using it as the World’s Largest Extortion Tool right now.

faraway on August 19, 2013 at 12:13 PM

If the NSA allows a GOP president to win election, you can rest assured they will have kryptonite on him.

astonerii on August 19, 2013 at 12:21 PM

Sen Paul said this morning “the president fundamentally doesn’t understand the separation of powers in the constitution”…re: the NSA.

Sen. Paul – you are dead wrong – he understands, absolutely he does – he just pees on the constitution.

Schadenfreude on August 19, 2013 at 12:26 PM

Peter Kind is an incredible idiot. He’s as tyrannical as obama. It’s sad to watch what he’s become.

Schadenfreude on August 19, 2013 at 12:27 PM

Sans words

Schadenfreude on August 19, 2013 at 12:37 PM

The only way to end the arrogance is for Congress to reassert its oversight responsibilities over a program that has clearly gone off the rails in that regard. If it takes stripping the NSA of funds to bring it to heel, then Amash is on the right track — and, I suspect, more of his colleagues will agree with that the second time around.

Go Justin! I fail to see how the spying on Americans is making us safer. All it is doing is helping the administration punish political enemies by utterly illegal ways.

Happy Nomad on August 19, 2013 at 12:38 PM

Detractors will just claim that the amendment is useless, just a mash of words…

;)

Logus on August 19, 2013 at 12:44 PM

Peter Kind is an incredible idiot. He’s as tyrannical as obama. It’s sad to watch what he’s become.

Schadenfreude on August 19, 2013 at 12:27 PM

The evolution of one who joins the political class. Fewer and fewer scruples with each successful election until they view themselves in god-like terms.

But this “you can trust us” rant by King and a few others really is beyond despicable. We can’t trust government. Clapper and Alexander lied to Congress and then, when caught, tried laughing it off with that “least untruthful” comment. Screw them all, defund NSA and the FISA court until they can prove they’ve reformed themselves enough to live within the scope of the law.

Happy Nomad on August 19, 2013 at 12:44 PM

How long do you think it will be before they are no longer preying on school buses full of kids, but try this on adults?

With the NSA’s help, they can pretty much guaranty a crowd that is going to be unarmed. However, I hope someone slips in who can defend himself and his fellow citizens.

Akzed on August 19, 2013 at 12:48 PM

Detractors will just claim that the amendment is useless, just a mash of words…

;)

Logus on August 19, 2013 at 12:44 PM

I see what you did there. But, really, we shouldn’t be laughing off detractors. Remember the drive to stop Amash before? The fat blowhard screaming at us that the NSA snooping was the only thing between us and another 9/11/01 atrocity. Peter King and others echoing the idea that domestic spying was necessary and not necessarily illegal (if you hold the law at a certain angle and squint in just the right direction).

Now we find out that what has been passed off as rare “technical glitches” occurs thousands of time a year and involves thousands if not millions of Americans. It’s that kind of blatant dishonesty that pisses me off the most.

Happy Nomad on August 19, 2013 at 12:54 PM

It looks to me that both Congress and the Judiciary are perfectly happy with Obama as king. Or dictator, pick your own term.

Cindy Munford on August 19, 2013 at 12:59 PM

Akzed on August 19, 2013 at 12:48 PM

Good grief, as if that is how it would have played out. So stupid.

Cindy Munford on August 19, 2013 at 1:01 PM

When governance is small, it is far easier to identify, attract, employ and keep the best possible employees/civil servants, who can be held directly accountable to those whom they serve…we, the people.

Obviously, NSA has been allowed to, encouraged to, grow way way beyond what its specific charter permitted.

Why a military organization is being permitted to use its facilities and personnel to target Americans within the United States is still beyond me.

Has our world suddenly become sooo very dangerous in just the past few years? More dangerous than when both the Soviet Union and the Peoples Republic of China, the entire Warsaw Pact, and a number of fringe fellow travelers were hell bent and actively working to destroy us? So dangerous that Americans are now considered as much a threat to the United States as a foreign enemy?

My suggestion? Fire the top six echelons of “leadership” at NSA. Scale back the number of employees by 40%. Focus on foreign threats. And, provide a budget.

Matter of fact…require Congress to provide a federal budget…or fire them all..House and Senate. Been going on 6 years now?

coldwarrior on August 19, 2013 at 1:03 PM

Dangit, I misread the headline and thought it said “Amish Amendment” and was hoping it had to do with using buggy whips on the folks involved in this snooping…….

GWB on August 19, 2013 at 1:04 PM

The tyranny lovers from the right are horrific to observe.

Schadenfreude on August 19, 2013 at 1:05 PM

Peter Kind King is an incredible idiot

Schadenfreude on August 19, 2013 at 1:06 PM

I took everything he said to be a big fat f*cking lie.

Harbingeing on August 19, 2013 at 12:12 PM

I do the same for all 536 of the idiots in DC.

unseen on August 19, 2013 at 1:27 PM

The tyranny lovers from the right are horrific to observe.

Schadenfreude on August 19, 2013 at 1:05 PM

Yeap have been since Hamilton.

unseen on August 19, 2013 at 1:28 PM

Pass the bill through the house and force the Senate or Obama himself to kill it. That will enrage not libertarians but many younger voters who don’t like the NSA thus turning them against Obama even more. This is such an easy political victory for the GOP, yet they are led by complete wimps who are clueless even when an easy win is right in front of them.

Why do you think Obama was freaking out over this thing passing the first time?

William Eaton on August 19, 2013 at 1:44 PM

Correction above: That will enrage not JUST libertarians but many younger voters…

William Eaton on August 19, 2013 at 1:45 PM

And the crowd that claims we are made safer by the spying will keep on trucking. We’ll never get rid of any of those govt alphabets. The next con looking politician who promises to repeal or replace anything is lying.

Kissmygrits on August 19, 2013 at 3:26 PM

Pass the bill through the House and force the Senate or Obama himself to kill it. That will enrage not only libertarians but many younger voters who don’t like the NSA thus turning them against Obama even more. This is such an easy political victory for the GOP, yet they are led by complete wimps who are clueless even when an easy win is right in front of them.

Why do you think Obama was freaking out over this thing passing the first time?

William Eaton on August 19, 2013 at 1:44 PM

This is so obviously correct that it is frustrating. Where are the GOP pols/strategists/media types who understand mass culture and the news cycle, and have the initiative and confidence to get out there and take the offensive?

Stupid passive-aggressive cultural Marxist lib crap is the new Establishment; young people get force fed that stuff from every institution today. Their natural rebellious, anti-authoritarian streak can easily be turned against it, if Republicans would only learn the melody.

It’s uncool to be a dupe of statism; it’s a way of being a sucka.

P.M. on August 19, 2013 at 3:36 PM

I would caution against encouraging the arrogant buffoons in Congress to become any more self important. See Obamacare-for-thee-but-for-me.

Sgt_H on August 19, 2013 at 7:13 PM