Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
August 2, 2015

NSA, Security Issues Forced Out of Defense Debate

Mikulski may not get a chance to debate her proposal to have NSA nominees go through Senate confirmation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

Mikulski may not get a chance to debate her proposal to have NSA nominees go through Senate confirmation. (Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

The uproar over domestic surveillance and national security issues may die down to a whimper in the Senate this year.

While the annual debate over the defense authorization bill usually provides senators with a megaphone on those and other controversial issues, this year’s bizarre end to November — with Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., exercising the “nuclear option” to end filibusters on most nominations — served to bury the contentious debate over the National Security Agency’s mass data and intelligence collection on Americans.

Indeed, President Barack Obama is likely to dodge what could have been an uncomfortable fight with many members of his own party over the NSA and other security issues.

For now, the Senate is only scheduled for one more week of work before 2014 arrives, and Reid already has promised to spend some of that time on Iran sanctions legislation in order to clear way for a larger agreement to move the underlying bill. That leaves little room for debating the NSA’s activities and other security concerns. Though the Senate Intelligence Committee approved surveillance changes in a closed-door markup of its annual authorization bill, that legislation is unlikely to pass the full Congress. The National Defense Authorization Act is therefore the last viable vehicle for such changes.

Concerned lawmakers know this, but they are facing an uphill battle to change the political reality. Of the more than 500 amendments offered to the NDAA, these three hot-button proposals would normally get at lot of attention. This year they’re likely to fall by the wayside.

1. Senate confirmation for the NSA director and inspector general: Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski, D-Md., and Dan Coats, R-Ind., have offered an amendment to the NDAA that would require Senate confirmation for both the head of the NSA and its inspector general. The agency has come under fire for overreach in its surveillance tactics, creating unusual bipartisan coalitions hoping to safeguard privacy rights of citizens. Mikulski and Coats are both members of the Intelligence Committee, which earlier this fall approved these exact changes as part of its markup.

“Our provision makes sure that the Senate has a chance to review and question whoever is nominated next as NSA Director in order to add to the confidence of the American people that the hardworking men and women of the NSA are under proper oversight and leadership. It is also vital that the NSA have an objective Inspector General so that he or she can perform investigations and oversight of NSA with total independence,” Mikulski said in a statement.

2. Enhanced NSA transparency and Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Courts disclosures: Perhaps sensing uncertainty, Democratic Sens. Mark Udall of Colorado and Ron Wyden of Oregon engaged in a colloquy on the floor the day before the Senate departed for a two-week Thanksgiving break decrying the NSA and vowing action.

“We believe that overly intrusive domestic surveillance programs, misleading statements made by senior intelligence officials, and revelations about how secret courts have handed down secret rulings on a secret law have eroded the trust and confidence of the American people. Simply put, we need to restore this trust, and the best way to do that is to carve out time and hold a vigorous and substantive debate here on the Senate floor, a debate the American people have demanded and deserve,” Udall said during the exchange.

Any real debate on restricting the breadth of the government’s surveillance powers, however, will have to wait until 2014. For now, the Wyden/Udall contingent continues to push its NSA transparency amendment. The short-term goal is to compel the Obama administration and FISA courts to disclose more information about the programs in order to lay the groundwork for a policy debate on the floor that senators and the public can understand.

“The amendment we have offered would require the executive branch to answer some of the major unanswered questions about domestic surveillance authorities and would require that future court opinions which find that domestic surveillance activities have violated the law or the Constitution ought to be made public,” Wyden said.

The classified nature of the surveillance programs have long put skeptics in Congress at a disadvantage. Wyden and Udall said in August that a National Security Agency audit report would be “the tip of a larger iceberg,” noting they were hamstrung by Senate rules.

The Intelligence Committee reported out separate bills in October and November, keeping the issue of reauthorizing and codifying surveillance authorities under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act away from the more routine annual intelligence authorization bill, suggesting that the bill could still move by unanimous consent after some changes behind the scenes.

Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy, D-Vt., has called what’s sure to be a contentious hearing on the NSA’s surveillance powers for Dec. 11, when NSA Director Keith B. Alexander is scheduled to be among the witnesses.

3. Security clearance for congressional staffers: Some of the most interesting issues that come up in any sweeping bill are the ones that affect Congress itself directly. Republican David Vitter of Louisiana — not one to shy away from provisions that affect staff — has introduced a measure that would allow more staffers to receive security clearance. Currently, most national security meetings with administration officials are only attended by members, as they have security clearance but their aides do not. In the past, some members have complained that they would like to discuss security issues with their staff, but most currently cannot do so.

Comments (21)

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

author email

  1. Biff Wellington

    Dec. 2, 2013
    5:53 p.m.

    Is this still America?

    • AlanMacDonald

      Dec. 4, 2013
      11:37 a.m.

      No, Biff, it is the Disguised Global Empire (DGE), the corporate, financial, militarist, media, extra-legal, and corrupt political Global Empire, that has ‘captured’ and now fully “Occupies” our former country, and yet remains hidden behind the facade of its modernized and Dual-Party Vichy sham of democracy —- just a surely as the earlier Nazi Empire tried less successfully to use its crude and mere single-party Vichy facade in the ‘captured’ and “Occupied” territory of France c. 1940.

      Any supposed ‘country’ which allows (and doesn’t even debate) massive spying on its own supposed ‘citizens’ is no longer a country or nation-state at all — but has succumbed to the classic disease of Republics, that can easily fall victim to devolving into Empires (and their ‘citizens’ into mere ‘subjects’ of the DGE)

  2. JCDavis

    Dec. 2, 2013
    6:55 p.m.

    So the fascists win, eh?

  3. Igor Shafarevich

    Dec. 3, 2013
    10:01 p.m.

    Those who pursue the opportunities afforded by liberty should realize that they will reap the praise or blame and are morally responsible for the consequences of their efforts.

  4. Anonymous

    June 27, 2015
    5:36 a.m.

    Enjoyed studying this, very good stuff, regards. “A man does not die of love or his liver or even of old age he dies of being a man.” by Percival Arland Ussher.

    http://www.sdorttuiiplmnr.com/

  5. Anonymous

    July 2, 2015
    11:29 a.m.

    Great post, I conceive people should learn a lot from this web site its rattling user genial.

    http://tahan-lama.webnode.com/

  6. Anonymous

    July 2, 2015
    2:24 p.m.

    That is the best weblog for anybody who wants to search out out about this topic. You understand so much its nearly arduous to argue with you (not that I really would want…HaHa). You definitely put a brand new spin on a topic thats been written about for years. Great stuff, just nice!

    http://terbaik2u.tumblr.com/

  7. Anonymous

    July 4, 2015
    5:15 a.m.

    Hey there would you mind sharing which blog platform you’re using? I’m going to start my own blog soon but I’m having a hard time making a decision between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something completely unique. P.S Apologies for getting off-topic but I had to ask!

    http://www.sdorttuiiplmnr.com/

  8. Anonymous

    July 7, 2015
    11:57 p.m.

    Great blog here! Also your web site loads up very fast! What host are you using? Can I get your affiliate link to your host? I wish my website loaded up as quickly as yours lol

    http://www.dibugs.com/profile/mimosastore9/?updated=true

  9. Anonymous

    July 9, 2015
    7:08 a.m.

    Hey very nice site!! Man .. Excellent .. Wonderful .. I will bookmark your blog and take the feeds additionallyKI am satisfied to search out a lot of helpful information right here in the put up, we want develop extra techniques in this regard, thanks for sharing. . . . . .

    https://social.msdn.microsoft.com/Profile/Infoasistencia

  10. Anonymous

    July 18, 2015
    6:21 a.m.

    I not to mention my guys were found to be taking note of the great tips on your web page and the sudden came up with an awful suspicion I had not thanked the site owner for those strategies. All the women were certainly very interested to study all of them and have in actuality been taking advantage of them. Appreciate your actually being indeed helpful and for picking such helpful guides most people are really wanting to learn about. My very own sincere regret for not saying thanks to earlier.

    http://www.mylaffy.com/blog/view/63272/low-cost-home-and-auto-insurance

  11. Anonymous

    July 24, 2015
    9:12 a.m.

    Thank you for sharing superb informations. Your site is very cool. I’m impressed by the details that you have on this blog. It reveals how nicely you perceive this subject. Bookmarked this web page, will come back for extra articles. You, my friend, ROCK! I found just the info I already searched all over the place and just couldn’t come across. What a perfect site.

    http://split.us

  12. Anonymous

    July 26, 2015
    5:36 a.m.

    I appreciate you sharing this article post. Really thank you! Cool.

    http://www.tutti.fr

  13. Google

    July 26, 2015
    6:44 a.m.

    Always a major fan of linking to bloggers that I appreciate but do not get lots of link enjoy from.

  14. Anonymous

    July 28, 2015
    5:33 a.m.

    I’m not sure why but this site is loading incredibly slow for me. Is anyone else having this issue or is it a issue on my end? I’ll check back later on and see if the problem still exists.

    http://www.sdorttuiiplmnr.com/

  15. ash shelf

    July 30, 2015
    12:26 a.m.

    the time to study or take a look at the content material or web-sites we’ve linked to below the

  16. מנעולן ברמלה

    July 30, 2015
    4:30 a.m.

    one of our visitors lately advised the following website

  17. Document Management Docudiscover

    July 30, 2015
    4:06 p.m.

    check below, are some absolutely unrelated web-sites to ours, on the other hand, they’re most trustworthy sources that we use

  18. Anonymous

    July 30, 2015
    5:49 p.m.

    Magnificent web site. Lots of useful info here. I am sending it to some friends ans also sharing in delicious. And certainly, thanks for your sweat!

    http://brookereviews.com/product/guilt-free-desserts-kelly-herring-review-legit-scam/

  19. Latest Technology News

    July 30, 2015
    8:55 p.m.

    we came across a cool web-site that you just may well enjoy. Take a appear when you want

  20. Anonymous

    July 31, 2015
    8 a.m.

    Saved as a favorite, I really like your blog!

    http://przedszkole-roza.pl/

Sign In

Forgot password?

Or

Subscribe

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

Subscription | Free Trial

Logging you in. One moment, please...