Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 12, 2016

5 Reasons the Amash NSA Amendment Is Trouble for White House

The House is expected to vote later today on Rep. Justin Amash’s amendment to defund the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of phone records of millions of Americans — and the White House very much wants it to lose.

A rare statement Tuesday night from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney slamming the Michigan Republican’s amendment was sent to reporters, and the agency is vigorously lobbying members to oppose it.

Here are a few reasons why the amendment would cause trouble for the White House:

1. A move by the House to eliminate one of the major programs exposed by Edward Snowden would to some degree validate him.

2. The last thing the White House needs as it engages in a worldwide effort to convince countries to deny Snowden asylum is the “People’s House” giving him validation as a whistle-blower. Carney has repeatedly declared that Snowden is not a whistle-blower or a dissident, but instead is someone who should face criminal charges.

3. Democratic defections. President Barack Obama has, to date, been able to skate past objections from the left on many of his hardline anti-terrorism policies, some of which he continued from the Bush administration. But at least on the Amash amendment, there is a bipartisan push — including the co-sponsor, Rep. John Conyers Jr. of Michigan, the ranking Democrat on the Judiciary Committee.

4. Passage of the amendment would provide more momentum for NSA skeptics in the Senate.

Majority Whip Richard J. Durbin, D-Ill., is currently crafting his own Defense spending bill as chairman of that Appropriations subcommittee, and he has opposed the NSA spying program since before it was made public.

As CQ Roll Call reported when the news first leaked in June, Durbin acknowledged that he had tried for years to eliminate or scale back the data collection programs.

“I’ve offered several [proposals] over the years, and I’m prepared to offer them again,” Durbin said at the time. “I think there are ways to make this more specific so that any data collected is specific to a suggestion that an individual is … engaged in conduct that endangers America.”

Durbin indicated the NSA may be casting too wide a net.

“Whether we collect everything and then look for the specific offenders or we zero in on information that relates to those who’ve offended,” Durbin said at the time. “Some of it is technical, but some of it’s pretty basic in principle.”

As in the House, any Senate proposal to cut funding or downsize the program could get broad bipartisan support. Of course, Durbin may not decide to include such a provision in his bill, considering he is not only in Democratic leadership, but is also close to the president. However, the probability of the issue being raised by the likes of Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., or Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., is high.

5. Finally, but importantly, the administration believes the program is critical to national security. As Carney’s statement put it, “We oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counter-terrorism tools.”

  • Ed Campbell

    A battle Obama deserves to lose.

  • pato

    The insistence on maintaining this overreaching power of the Patriot Act is misguided. Technology should allow companies to keep electronic records cheaply for many many years, so that if anyone is ever specifically suspected of plotting a terrorist act, then a constitutionally valid warrant could be issued for collecting those records going back many years.

    If there are websites, people, or specific purchases that are so linked to terrorism that any links to them are suspicious then get a warrant to monitor whomever is accessing that website or make the case for mandatory reporting of specific purchases like there is with large explosives purchases or fertilizer purchases.

    The only reason to just collect everything is to try data mining for new leads on terrorists. Maybe it would be useful or maybe it is a vast waste or resources when the real focus should be on focusing on the terrorists we know of and uncovering the networks from there. Either way, Liberty is national security.

Sign In

Forgot password?



Receive daily coverage of the people, politics and personality of Capitol Hill.

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...