The obituary of Rep. Justin Amash’s amendment to claw back the sweeping powers of the National Security Agency has largely been written as a victory for the White House and NSA chief Keith Alexander, who lobbied the Hill aggressively in the days and hours ahead of Wednesday’s shockingly close vote. But Hill sources say most of the credit for the amendment’s defeat goes to someone else: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. It’s an odd turn, considering that Pelosi has been, on many occasions, a vocal surveillance critic.
Ahead of the razor-thin 205-217 vote, which would have severely limited the NSA’s ability to collect data on Americans’ telephone records if passed, Pelosi privately and aggressively lobbied wayward Democrats to torpedo the amendment, a Democratic committee aid with knowledge of the deliberations tells The Cable.
“Pelosi had meetings and made a plea to vote against the amendment and that had a much bigger effect on swing Democratic votes against the amendment than anything Alexander had to say,” said the source, keeping in mind concerted White House efforts to influence Congress by Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper. “Had Pelosi not been as forceful as she had been, it’s unlikely there would’ve been more Democrats for the amendment.”
With 111 liberal-to-moderate Democrats voting for the amendment alongside 94 Republicans, the vote in no way fell along predictable ideological fault lines. And for a particular breed of Democrat, Pelosi’s overtures proved decisive, multiple sources said.
“Pelosi had a big effect on more middle-of-the road hawkish Democrats who didn’t want to be identified with a bunch of lefties [voting for the amendment],” said the aide. “As for the Alexander briefings: Did they hurt? No, but that was not the central force, at least among House Democrats. Nancy Pelosi’s political power far outshines that of Keith Alexander’s.” Read more from this story HERE.
By Jason Howerton
While the most talked-about news out of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday was the defeat of the so-called Amash amendment that would have defunded the NSA’s massive data collection program, another amendment related to NSA spying was quietly passed overwhelmingly by lawmakers.
The Pompeo amendment (championed by Rep. Mike Pompeo of Kansas) passed the House with a bipartisan vote of 409-12. However, “no one is talking about it,” Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) told TheBlaze on Thursday.
The amendment that passed is reportedly intended to “ensure none of the funds may be used by the NSA to target a U.S. person or acquire and store the content of a U.S. person’s communications, including phone calls and e-mails.”
In contrast, the Amash amendment sought to “end authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act. It would also bar the NSA and other agencies from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect records, including telephone call records, that pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation under Section 215.”
Culberson told TheBlaze in a phone interview why he supported the Pompeo amendment over the more sweeping amendment authored by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.). Read more from this story HERE.
By Dana Blanton
Voters think the National Security Agency surveillance program is more likely to hurt than protect law-abiding Americans. They are also concerned the agency can’t keep its own secrets secret.
That’s according to a Fox News poll released Thursday — a day after the U.S. House voted down legislation that would have stopped the NSA from collecting the phone records of millions of Americans.
By a 47-41 percent margin, more voters think the government’s electronic surveillance program does more to hurt Americans by using their private info improperly than it does to help track down terrorists and protect Americans.
The number of Democrats who believe the NSA’s efforts are more likely to help catch terrorists (52 percent) is matched by the number of Republicans who think it will hurt everyday Americans (52 percent). More than 7 in 10 voters who are part of the Tea Party movement say the tracking is more likely to hurt Americans (72 percent). Read more from this story HERE.
By Spencer Ackerman and Paul Lewis
The razor-thin defeat of a congressional measure to rein in domestic surveillance galvanized civil libertarians on Thursday for what they expect to be a drawn-out political and legal struggle to clip the wings of the intelligence apparatus in the US.
While a measure by Representative Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican, failed in the House on Wednesday night, the tight vote was the closest that privacy advocates have come since 9/11 to stopping the National Security Agency from collecting Americans’ data in bulk.
Members of Congress, liberties groups and former surveillance officials pointed to a variety of measures, from new legislation in both the Senate and House to court cases, as means to reset the much-contested balance between liberty and security in the US over the coming weeks and months.
“There are many voices concerned in the Senate about this same issue,” said J Kirk Wiebe, a former senior NSA analyst turned whistleblower. “It doesn’t mean it’s the end of it. It’s the beginning.”
Aides to congressman James Sensenbrenner, the Wisconsin Republican who wrote the Patriot Act, told the Guardian on Thursday that he plans to introduce legislation through the House judiciary committee that would restrict the NSA’s bulk surveillance of Americans’ phone records.
“Yesterday’s amendment was only a first step in what will be a long debate,” said Sensenbrenner spokesman Ben Miller. Read more from this story HERE.