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 »
HUFFINGTON POST EFFORT ID’D PROBLEMS
Inauguration Committee Admits to Faulty Donor Records
2 minutes ago
THE DETAILS

The Presidential Inaugural Committee "acknowledged late Monday that a final report it filed with the Federal Election Commission this month was riddled with errors, many of which were first identified through a crowdsourced data project at HuffPost." The committee raised about $100 million for the festivities, but the 500-page FEC report, which detailed where that money came from, was riddled with problems. The likely culprit: a system of access codes sent out by the GOP's ticketing system. Those codes were then often passed around on the secondary market.

Source:
WHITE HOUSE BLOCKING DOC REQUEST
Michael Flynn Remains A Russian-Sized Problem
2 hours ago
BREAKING

The Michael Flynn story is not going away for the White House as it tries to refocus its attention. The White House has denied requests from the House Oversight Committee for information and documents regarding payments that the former nationals security adviser received from Russian state television station RT and Russian firms. House Oversight Chairman Jason Chaffetz and ranking members Elijah Cummings also said that Flynn failed to report these payments on his security clearance application. White House legislative director Marc Short argued that the documents request are either not in the possession of the White House or contain sensitive information he believes are not applicable to the committee's stated investigation.

Source:
SENATE JUDICIARY HEARING
Sally Yates to Testify on May 8
3 hours ago
THE LATEST
MESSAGE TO PUTIN
U.S. To Conduct Exercises In Estonia
4 hours ago
THE DETAILS

The U.S. deployed "F-35 joint strike fighters" to Estonia on Tuesday. The "jets will stay in Estonia for several weeks and will be a part of training flights with U.S. and other NATO air forces." The move comes at a time of high tension between the U.S. and Estonia's neighbor, Russia. The two nations have been at odds over a number of issues recently, most of all being Vladimir Putin's support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in light of Assad's chemical weapons attack on his own people in the midst of a civil war.

Source:
BIPARTISAN SUPPORT YIELDS 87 VOTES IN FAVOR
Senate OKs Perdue as Agriculture Secretary
6 hours ago
WHY WE CARE

It took long enough, but the Trump administration finally includes an Agriculture secretary. "The Senate easily approved Sonny Perdue on Monday" by a count of 87-11. Perdue enjoyed the support of Democrats like Delaware's Chris Coons and Wisconsin's Tammy Baldwin, both of whom spoke in his favor.

Source:
×
×

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