House Leaders Sideline Anti-NSA Lawmakers

Through a procedural trick, some of the most vocal critics of mass surveillance are not going to get to review a new reform bill.

Activists protest the surveillance of U.S. citizens by the NSA outside the Justice Department where President Barack Obama gave a major speech on reforming the NSA January 17, 2014.
National Journal
Dustin Volz
Add to Briefcase
Dustin Volz
March 26, 2014, 2:40 p.m.

Some of the most vo­cal crit­ics of the Na­tion­al Se­cur­ity Agency in Con­gress be­lieve they are be­ing in­ten­tion­ally cut out of a loom­ing de­bate on how to re­form the agency’s pro­gram that col­lects bulk tele­phone data.

The House par­lia­ment­ari­an on Wed­nes­day gave primary jur­is­dic­tion of a newly in­tro­duced bill that would re­pur­pose much of the NSA pro­gram to the cham­ber’s In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee in­stead of the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, leav­ing mem­bers and aides of the lat­ter group to cry foul play.

Mat­ters in­volving the over­sight of the in­tel­li­gence com­munity’s broad leg­al au­thor­ity have al­ways fallen to the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee, a staffer said, adding that he could find no in­stance since the ter­ror­ist at­tacks of Sept. 11, 2001, that his com­mit­tee did not get first claim on such le­gis­la­tion.

“Many of our mem­bers are pretty out­raged,” the staffer said. “They’re try­ing to un­der­mine this com­mit­tee’s clear jur­is­dic­tion, as the de­bate we’re hav­ing is on civil liber­ties and con­sti­tu­tion­al rights.” The man­euver, he said, puts NSA re­form in “the hands of its biggest cheer­lead­ers.”

One of those out­raged Ju­di­ciary mem­bers is Rep. Jer­rold Nadler, who quickly is­sued a state­ment say­ing he was “deeply con­cerned that today, for what ap­pears to be the first time ever, a FISA re­form bill has been sent first to the House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee.”

Nadler ad­ded: “The House Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee must be the primary Com­mit­tee at the cen­ter of this re­form.”

The bill in ques­tion was in­tro­duced on Tues­day by Reps. Mike Ro­gers, chair of the In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee, and Dutch Rup­pers­ber­ger, that pan­el’s top Demo­crat. Both, es­pe­cially Ro­gers, have been adam­ant de­fend­ers of NSA sur­veil­lance since Ed­ward Snowden’s leaks began last June.

But the two have changed their tune fol­low­ing the un­veil­ing of their bill, which came on the heels of a New York Times re­port that Pres­id­ent Obama was en­dors­ing a pro­pos­al that would keep tele­phone data in the hands of phone com­pan­ies and re­quire court ap­prov­al pri­or to every search of a tar­geted phone num­ber.

The bill ad­heres closely to a set of re­forms backed by Pres­id­ent Obama, but would al­low the NSA to force com­pan­ies to turn over par­tic­u­lar re­cords — or­ders the For­eign In­tel­li­gence Sur­veil­lance Court would re­view after the fact.

The co­ales­cing around a gen­er­al frame­work of re­form — and Wed­nes­day’s pro­ced­ur­al coup — does not bode well for the USA Free­dom Act, which was in­tro­duced last year by Rep. Jim Sensen­bren­ner. The meas­ure from the Wis­con­sin Re­pub­lic­an and au­thor of the post-9/11 Pat­ri­ot Act, who sits on the Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee and is a former chair of the pan­el, would re­quire a stronger bur­den of proof for data searches and lim­it some of the NSA’s oth­er pro­grams, in­clud­ing sur­veil­lance of over­seas In­ter­net traffic.

The Free­dom Act, which has more than 140 co­spon­sors but has seen little pro­gress lately, had been re­ferred to Ju­di­ciary, lead­ing staffers there to ex­pect the same would be done for Ro­gers’s FISA Trans­par­ency and Mod­ern­iz­a­tion Act. Now at least two Ju­di­ciary aides have ex­pressed con­cern that the com­mit­tee could be cut out of the re­view pro­cess en­tirely, as Ro­gers and Rup­pers­ber­ger may at­tempt to bum-rush their bill to the House floor.

House Par­lia­ment­ari­an Tom Wick­ham and a rep­res­ent­at­ive for Ma­jor­ity Lead­er Eric Can­tor did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment. The House In­tel­li­gence Com­mit­tee also did not re­spond to a re­quest for com­ment.

What We're Following See More »
TWO MONTHS AFTER REFUSING AT CONVENTION
Cruz to Back Trump
1 days ago
THE LATEST
WHO TO BELIEVE?
Two Polls for Clinton, One for Trump
1 days ago
THE LATEST

With three days until the first debate, the polls are coming fast and furious. The latest round:

  • An Associated Press/Gfk poll of registered voters found very few voters committed, with Clin­ton lead­ing Trump, 37% to 29%, and Gary John­son at 7%.
  • A Mc­Clatchy-Mar­ist poll gave Clin­ton a six-point edge, 45% to 39%, in a four-way bal­lot test. Johnson pulls 10% support, with Jill Stein at 4%.
  • Rasmussen, which has drawn criticism for continually showing Donald Trump doing much better than he does in other polls, is at it again. A new survey gives Trump a five-point lead, 44%-39%.
NO SURPRISE
Trump Eschewing Briefing Materials in Debate Prep
1 days ago
THE DETAILS

In contrast to Hillary Clinton's meticulous debate practice sessions, Donald Trump "is largely shun­ning tra­di­tion­al de­bate pre­par­a­tions, but has been watch­ing video of…Clin­ton’s best and worst de­bate mo­ments, look­ing for her vul­ner­ab­il­it­ies.” Trump “has paid only curs­ory at­ten­tion to brief­ing ma­ter­i­als. He has re­fused to use lecterns in mock de­bate ses­sions des­pite the ur­ging of his ad­visers. He prefers spit­balling ideas with his team rather than hon­ing them in­to crisp, two-minute an­swers.”

Source:
TRUMP NO HABLA ESPANOL
Trump Makes No Outreach to Spanish Speakers
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Donald Trump "is on the precipice of becoming the only major-party presidential candidate this century not to reach out to millions of American voters whose dominant, first or just preferred language is Spanish. Trump has not only failed to buy any Spanish-language television or radio ads, he so far has avoided even offering a translation of his website into Spanish, breaking with two decades of bipartisan tradition."

Source:
$1.16 MILLION
Clintons Buy the House Next Door in Chappaqua
1 days ago
WHY WE CARE

Bill and Hillary Clinton have purchased the home next door to their primary residence in tony Chappaqua, New York, for $1.16 million. "By purchasing the new home, the Clinton's now own the entire cul-de-sac at the end of the road in the leafy New York suburb. The purchase makes it easier for the United States Secret Service to protect the former president and possible future commander in chief."

Source:
×