Privacy Groups Release Congressional Scorecard on NSA Spying

How do your lawmakers rank on government surveillance?

National Journal
Dustin Volz
Add to Briefcase
Dustin Volz
June 27, 2014, 6:16 a.m.

Di­anne Fein­stein gets an “F.” So does John Boehner.

Patrick Leahy, Ron Wyden, and Justin Amash each earned an “A.”

At least that’s ac­cord­ing to a new con­gres­sion­al score­card from pri­vacy and civil-liber­ties groups meas­ur­ing how law­makers stand on gov­ern­ment spy­ing, an is­sue that con­tin­ues to slowly gain trac­tion more than a year after Ed­ward Snowden’s leaks ex­posed clas­si­fied bulk-data sur­veil­lance pro­grams at the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency.

The score­card, de­veloped by red­dit, the Sun­light Found­a­tion, De­mand Pro­gress and oth­ers, grades law­makers from “A” to “F,” de­pend­ing on their votes or spon­sor­ship of cer­tain pieces of re­cent sur­veil­lance le­gis­la­tion. Its re­lease co­in­cides with the liftoff of a Green­peace blimp this morn­ing that hovered above the NSA’s data cen­ter in Utah and dis­played the mes­sage “Il­leg­al spy­ing be­low.”

The let­ter grades are meant to add clar­ity to a muddled re­form pro­cess con­cern­ing the prop­er scope of gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance of phone and In­ter­net data, said Rainey Re­it­man, act­iv­ist dir­ect­or with the Elec­tron­ic Fron­ti­er Found­a­tion, one of the or­gan­iz­ing groups.

“Con­gress has been strug­gling with what they’re go­ing to do about sur­veil­lance re­form, and for the gen­er­al pub­lic, this has been a very con­fus­ing de­bate,” Re­it­man said. “Be­cause, of­ten there are go­ing to be bills that im­ply they are go­ing to help with sur­veil­lance is­sues when, in fact, they are fake re­forms that would merely en­trench the spy­ing.”

In the House, points were awar­ded for sup­port of the Sur­veil­lance State Re­peal Act, in­tro­duced last year by Rep. Rush Holt (who gets an “A”), and the ori­gin­al USA Free­dom Act, which was au­thored by Rep. Jim Sensen­bren­ner (also an “A”) and sought to end the NSA’s bulk col­lec­tion of U.S. phone metadata.

But points were sub­trac­ted if a House mem­ber voted for the “watered-down” ver­sion of the Free­dom Act, which passed the cham­ber 303-121 in May. Power­ful tech com­pan­ies such as Google and Face­book and pri­vacy ad­voc­ates dropped their sup­port of that bill as el­ev­enth-hour ne­go­ti­ations among House lead­er­ship, in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cials, and the White House altered the lan­guage of key sec­tions of the bill.

In the Sen­ate, points were awar­ded for spon­sor­ship of the ori­gin­al USA Free­dom Act, in­tro­duced by Sen. Patrick Leahy, and points were de­duc­ted for co­spon­sor­ship of Sen. Di­anne Fein­stein’s FISA Im­prove­ments Act, which civil-liber­ties groups have routinely lam­basted as co­di­fy­ing the cur­rent powers of the NSA and oth­er in­tel­li­gence agen­cies. Even Fein­stein has ac­know­ledged that her bill likely does not have a path for­ward, however.

Sev­er­al high-pro­file sen­at­ors re­main un­ranked in the score­card for not be­ing “sig­ni­fic­antly in­volved” in the de­bate on NSA spy­ing. Sen­ate Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Harry Re­id, Sen­ate Minor­ity Lead­er Mitch Mc­Con­nell, and Re­pub­lic­an Sens. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz, and Marco Ru­bio—a trio of po­ten­tial GOP pres­id­en­tial can­did­ates in 2016—are all lis­ted with a ques­tion mark.

Paul’s des­ig­na­tion is es­pe­cially not­able, as he has typ­ic­ally been an out­spoken crit­ic of do­mest­ic gov­ern­ment sur­veil­lance, and has signaled that an ag­gress­ive anti-NSA stance could be a cent­ral plank of his pos­sible 2016 plat­form. But or­gan­izers re­it­er­ated that the score­card was meant to only re­flect sup­port or op­pos­i­tion to key le­gis­la­tion.

“We were temp­ted to say, if you’re not do­ing any­thing good, you should get an ‘F,’ ” Re­it­man said. “But we thought, for right now, we should give these people ques­tion marks” un­til the Sen­ate votes on an NSA bill.

What We're Following See More »
HEALTH IN QUESTION
Sen. Cochran Back to Washington Tuesday
30 minutes ago
THE LATEST
THIRD VERSION OF THE BAN
Federal Judge Temporarily Stops Trump’s Travel Ban
1 hours ago
THE LATEST

"A federal district court in Hawaii has temporarily blocked the third iteration of President Trump's travel ban. Judge Derrick Watson said the new targeted restrictions on travel from eight countries Trump issued on Sept. 24 suffers the same problems as the previous order."

Source:
FORMER ELI LILLY EXEC
Trump Leaning Towards Alex Azar for HHS
1 hours ago
THE DETAILS

"President Donald Trump is leaning toward nominating Alex Azar, a former pharmaceutical industry executive and George W. Bush administration official, to serve as Health and Human Services secretary, according to two White House officials...Azar is a veteran of HHS. He served as the department’s general counsel and deputy secretary during the Bush administration." He led Eli Lilly's U.S. operations from 2012-17.

Source:
ENOUGH SUPPORT TO PASS?
Senators Reach Bipartisan ACA Deal
2 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Sen. Lamar Alexander says he and Sen. Patty Murray have reached a deal to fund the Affordable Care Act's cost-sharing subsidies in exchange for giving states more regulatory flexibility with the law." Axios is watching to see if the deal will gather support.

Source:
INDEX UP MORE THAN 20% SINCE ELECTION
Dow Jones Hits 23,000 Threshold
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login