I just love these last minute votes. I’m convinced they hold them this way so we don’t have time to organize.
GOP insurrection heats up over surveillance
By David Sirota, Salon
Monday, Jul 22, 2013 2:56 PM UTC
In an attempt to prevent Washington lawmakers from having to publicly declare their position on the National Security Administration’s mass surveillance, will congressional leaders formally snuff out one of the last embers of democracy in the U.S. House? This is one of the big questions this week in Washington, as the Republicans who control the House are resorting to brass knuckled tactics in an effort to thwart one of their own.
As I learned from four-plus years working in the Capitol’s lower chamber during President Bush’s first term, the U.S. House of Representatives runs like a politburo did in a typical Soviet satellite state. Decisions about what even gets voted on – much less passed – usually happen behind closed doors, with a handful of party leaders handing down orders to the rest of the body’s loyal apparatchiks. That means most legislative drama can’t be seen by voters, and it means congresspeople rarely have to cast public votes on anything the House Speaker doesn’t want them to vote on. By design, this system (which differs from the Senate, where all members can force votes on almost anything) deliberately protects majority party House members from having to cast embarrassing campaign-ad-worthy public votes against the minority party’s proposals.
Assuming Amash and the bipartisan coalition around his amendment doesn’t back down, there should be little doubt that Permanent Washington and supporters of mass surveillance will soon pivot to the “support our troops” frame. As they always do, they will insist that any delay of any bill relating to the military – in this case the Defense Appropriations Bill – is akin to not supporting the troops. Appealing to the most cartoonish mantras of militarism to try to force the bipartisan coalition to back down, the assertion will be that Amash’s amendment is unpatriotic and treasonous because it might delay the passage of the bill, which would supposedly then leave American troops naked and unarmed on various battlefields across the world.
Amash’s amendment says the opposite – that Congress needs to have an open debate over that program. In the process, he and his bipartisan coalition have engineered a big moment in the fight over liberties and rights – and that includes Americans’ basic right to know where their own elected officials stand on issues as fundamental as privacy and mass surveillance.
Should lawmakers respond to such a critical moment by blocking a vote on the amendment and then passing a defense bill funding more surveillance, the harrowing message should be clear: Congress will be saying that We the People shouldn’t be permitted to see where our government officials stand on key public policy questions, but government officials should be allowed to continue surveilling, collecting and datamining the most intimate details of all of our lives.
Yet despite their best efforts there will be a vote- probably tomorrow.
Amash (R-MI) & Conyers (D-MI) offer amendment to curtail NSA, NSA against it, vote soon
by Gaius Publius, Americablog
If you want to make a difference, lobby your member. House member phone numbers are at the link. Please use it. And if there’s an extra phone call in your future, you might check out the names in this list. They’re lobby-able as well. So far we’re on the upswing and the tide is with us. Might as well use it.
Me, I’m scoring this vote, and I’ll publish the list of heroes and villains as soon as I have it.
You, please do lobby. I’ll tell you why tomorrow, but for now, just know it’s not useless to act. You won’t always win, but please, do act. Rush Holt’s bill repealing the Patriot Act is also coming; you can join those who are causing a scene, and feel very good about it at the same time. After all, the NSA already knows what you think about them, so there’s nothing to lose, is there.
Snowden’s Whistleblowing Creates Climate for Critical House Vote on NSA Surveillance
By: Kevin Gosztola, Firedog Lake
Wednesday July 24, 2013 9:24 am
Introduced by Republican Representative Justin Amash and Democratic Representative John Conyers (both from the state of Michigan), it would restrict the “federal government’s ability under the Patriot Act to collect information on Americans who are not connected to an ongoing investigation. The bill also requires that secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) court opinions be made available to Congress and summaries of the opinions be made available to the public,” according to the amendment’s sponsors.
A press release indicating at least thirty members of the House support the amendment contends the Limiting Internet and Blanket Electronic Review of Telecommunications and Email Act (LIBERT-E Act) imposes reasonable limits on the federal government’s surveillance.” It “puts some teeth into the FISA court’s determination of whether records the government wants are actually relevant to an investigation, and “it also makes sure that innocent Americans’ information isn’t needlessly swept up into a government database” by attempting to prohibit the “type of government dragnet that the leaked Verizon order revealed.”
President Barack Obama, however, opposes this effort to curtail the power of the NSA. White House spokesperson Jay Carney said, “We oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counter-terrorism tools.” And, “His blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process. We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.” (Notice the White House does not mention the name of the Democratic Representative who also introduced the amendment, misrepresenting the bipartisan support for this amendment.)
NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander also spent yesterday holding emergency "top secret" meetings with Republicans and Democrats to convince them not to restrict the power of the NSA to conduct surveillance that would broadly sweep up Americans’ communications.
The Liars Are "Very Concerned" Program They Lied About Will Be Defunded
Tuesday July 23, 2013 10:11 pm
Buried at the bottom of a broader story on opposition to the Amash-Conyers amendment, CNN offers a very solicitous account of the White House statement opposing it, making no note of how absurd the entire premise is.
CNN does, however, provide James Clapper and Keith Alexander an opportunity to give their readout of the TS/SCI briefings they gave Congress.
In spite of reporting describing it as a lobbying session, these noted prevaricators claim their job wasn’t to persuade, it was just to answer questions.
Sort of gives you the impression they failed to persuade, huh?
But if their mission was really to “provide information” and “get the facts on the table,” then what have all the unclassified briefings been about? Is this claim they were only now “providing information” yet another indication that they were, perhaps, misinforming before? Again?
That, to me, is a big part of this story: that two men who have lied repeatedly about these programs felt the need to conduct Top Secret briefings to provide information that hadn’t been provided in the past.
This program is problematic for several reasons: it is overkill to achieve its stated purpose and it violates the intent of the Fourth Amendment.
But add to that the trust those overseeing the program chose to piss away by lying about this collection repeatedly in the past.
If Amash-Conyers does pass (and it’s still a long-shot unless each and every one of you manages to convince your Rep to support it), it will be in significant part because Clapper and Alexander abused the trust placed in them.
Amash-Conyers Fails 205-217
Wednesday July 24, 2013 7:00 pm
In one of the closest votes in a long time for civil liberties, the Amash-Conyers amendment just failed, but only barely, by a vote of 205-217.
The debate was lively, with Mike Rogers, Michele Bachmann, and Iraq verteran Tom Cotton spoke against the amendment; Amash closely managed time to include a broad mix of Democrats and Republicans.