Civil liberties movement wins by losing a key House voteThursday, July 25, 2013 at 7:43 am by Shahid Buttar
Since Senator Rand Paul’s groundbreaking filibuster of the CIA Director’s nomination this spring, the national security state has been on its heels in the face of rising transpartisan criticism from Americans who remember our nation’s founding values.
That criticism reached new heights on Wednesday night, when an amendment nearly passed to the House Defense appropriations bill that would have de-funded dragnet spying by the National Security Agency.
On the one hand, the amendment, proposed by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) and supported by a broad coalition including House Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers (D-MI), was ultimately rejected.
On the other hand, it was defeated by only a narrow margin, 217-205. In the context of a sustained lobbying blitz by the NSA with active support from the White House, the bipartisan block led by Conyers & Amash came remarkably close to a dramatic legislative victory, which augers well for future votes on surveillance issues.
[Updates: See the final vote tally, and how your representative voted, here. Among any number of other ways to analyze these results, it would be accurate to observe that Democratic leaders, along with Bay Area and Chicago Democrats representing safe blue seats who were outspoken about NSA abuses under the Bush administration, comprised the NSA's entire margin of victory.]
It is exciting to see members of Congress challenging the national security state to the greatest extent since the PATRIOT Act was enacted over a decade ago. Unfortunately, however, Congress recently extended FISA powers for another five years — even without knowing the full contours of the agency’s activities, which remain secret even after the Snowden disclosures revealed tips of the iceberg.
With the NSA’s unconstitutional powers authorized until at least 2018, it will take an affirmative act of Congress to restore the Fourth Amendment. As it happens, the impending August recess creates enormous opportunities to encourage precisely that. BORDC will be working with grassroots coalitions around the country to make their concerns heard, and invites anyone interested in getting involved to contact the BORDC organizing team at organizing[at]bordc[dot]org.