A tea-party lawmaker is offering an amendment to protect a government-surveillance reform bill from being hollowed out due to pressure from the Obama administration and national-security hawks.
Rep. Justin Amash filed an amendment Monday that would take a key section of the USA Freedom Act — which aims to effectively end the government’s mass collection of Americans’ phone records — and strap it onto the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual funding bill that Congress will vote on later this week. The Amash amendment would strip funding from intelligence programs justified under Section 215 of the post-9/11 Patriot Act except in certain circumstances, an anti-spying move reminiscent of one the Michigan Republican pulled last summer.
The amendment, offered to the Rules Committee, is meant as a fail-safe in the event the Freedom Act does not also come up for consideration this week in its current form or something closely resembling it, said Will Adams, Amash’s chief of staff. House leadership has scheduled the bill for “possible consideration” this week, but backdoor dealings that may change it continued through the weekend and spilled into this week.
“If negotiations keep dragging on and we don’t get consideration of the Freedom Act this week, we will use our opportunity to move with the NDAA legislation an amendment that would address NSA surveillance,” Adams said.
The Rules panel is scheduled to consider the rules of debate on the NDAA bill Tuesday, at which time it will decide whether to accept Amash’s amendment.
House leadership and White House officials have been meeting with select lawmakers to discuss possible changes to the Freedom Act, which was passed through both the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees in an amended form two weeks ago. Those talks continued Monday, but sources say the bill could lose some of its current privacy and transparency protections. Fears that the bill could get watered down further have prompted some of the bill’s supporters to warn that their support hangs in the balance.
“Efforts to weaken the ban [on bulk collection of phone records] could drive away the civil-liberties groups that now support the bill,” said Greg Nojeim, director of the Center for Democracy and Technology’s project on freedom, security and technology.
A section that allows tech companies more leeway in reporting to customers the requests for user data it receives from the government is among the changes believed to be still subject to negotiation. Also in contention is how narrowly intelligence agencies should be required to define selected targets when data searches are conducted.
Amash gained notoriety last summer for his aggressive opposition to NSA spying in the wake of Edward Snowden’s disclosures. In July, he offered an amendment to a Department of Defense appropriations bill that would have stripped the NSA of funding for its phone-spying program. The measure, opposed by House leadership, narrowly fell 205-217.
In addition to Amash’s plan, Rep. Zoe Lofgren has offered an NDAA amendment that would set a probable-cause standard for the search of U.S. communications under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and another that would prohibit intelligence agencies from requiring device manufacturers or software developers to build an encryption “backdoor” into their products.
What We're Following See More »
Foreign Policy takes a look at the future of mining the estimated "100,000 near-Earth objects—including asteroids and comets—in the neighborhood of our planet. Some of these NEOs, as they’re called, are small. Others are substantial and potentially packed full of water and various important minerals, such as nickel, cobalt, and iron. One day, advocates believe, those objects will be tapped by variations on the equipment used in the coal mines of Kentucky or in the diamond mines of Africa. And for immense gain: According to industry experts, the contents of a single asteroid could be worth trillions of dollars." But the technology to get us there is only the first step. Experts say "a multinational body might emerge" to manage rights to NEOs, as well as a body of law, including an international court.
Not to be outdone by Jeffrey Goldberg's recent piece in The Atlantic about President Obama's foreign policy, the New York Times Magazine checks in with a longread on the president's economic legacy. In it, Obama is cognizant that the economic reality--73 straight months of growth--isn't matched by public perceptions. Some of that, he says, is due to a constant drumbeat from the right that "that denies any progress." But he also accepts some blame himself. “I mean, the truth of the matter is that if we had been able to more effectively communicate all the steps we had taken to the swing voter,” he said, “then we might have maintained a majority in the House or the Senate.”
Ronald Reagan's children and political allies took to the media and Twitter this week to chide funnyman Will Ferrell for his plans to play a dementia-addled Reagan in his second term in a new comedy entitled Reagan. In an open letter, Reagan's daughter Patti Davis tells Ferrell, who's also a producer on the movie, “Perhaps for your comedy you would like to visit some dementia facilities. I have—I didn’t find anything comedic there, and my hope would be that if you’re a decent human being, you wouldn’t either.” Michael Reagan, the president's son, tweeted, "What an Outrag....Alzheimers is not joke...It kills..You should be ashamed all of you." And former Rep. Joe Walsh called it an example of "Hollywood taking a shot at conservatives again."
In a sign that she’s ready to put a longer-than-expected primary battle behind her, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton (D) is no longer going on the air in upcoming primary states. “Team Clinton hasn’t spent a single cent in … California, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon and West Virginia, while” Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-VT) “campaign has spent a little more than $1 million in those same states.” Meanwhile, Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Sanders’ "lone backer in the Senate, said the candidate should end his presidential campaign if he’s losing to Hillary Clinton after the primary season concludes in June, breaking sharply with the candidate who is vowing to take his insurgent bid to the party convention in Philadelphia.”