Topics: House of Representatives

House votes down Justin Amash’s effort to restrict NSA data collection

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Beltway Confidential,Joel Gehrke,House of Representatives,NSA,Surveillance,Analysis,Justin Amash

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., tried but failed to restrict the National Security Agency’s authority to collect phone records, despite receiving the support of the original author of the Patriot Act, which initiated the NSA program.

“This amendment does not stop the collection of data under section 215 to people who are subject of an investigation,” Sensenbrenner said in expressing “strong support” for the Amash proposal, “it prevents the collection [of data] of people who are not subject to an investigation.”

Amash, who co-authored the amendment with Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., described how the remaining data collection efforts would take place in a fact sheet. “The government would have to provide facts to the FISA court to show that there are reasonable grounds to believe that the records sought (1) are relevant to an appropriately authorized national security investigation and (2) pertain to the person (including any group or corporation) under investigation,” according to his office.

The amendment enjoyed other Democratic support, in addition to Conyers, from lawmakers such as Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., and Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-Calif., who disputed the idea that Congress has sufficient oversight of the program.

“This year, the report was eight sentences,” Lofgren said. “To think that the Congress has substantial oversight of this program is simply incorrect.”

The bill faced powerful opposition from other Republicans, though, such as House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., and Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., who emphasized that the program has congressional oversight and a proven history of thwarting terrorist attacks.

“This program has stopped dozens of terrorist attacks,” Cotton, a veteran of two combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, said on the House floor. “This ends the program, it blows it up.”

Cotton also tried to tamp down on fear the NSA program violates privacy rights. “Called to, called from, date, time, the duration [of the call],” he said when describing the data the program tracks. “Five columns, billions of rows. It’s in a lock-box. It can’t be searched unless you have specific suspicion of a number used by a terrorist.”

The amendment failed on a voice vote immediately following Cotton’s remarks. “In the opinion of the chair, the noes have it,” Rep. Ilea Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., concluded.

The amendment failed in a narrow vote, with 217 House members voting against it and 205 in support of the amendment

 

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