Amash loses battle but could still win the war on domestic surveillance

By Robert Romano

The National Security Agency (NSA) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) domestic surveillance program suffered a near-death experience on the floor of the House of Representatives July 24.

Although an amendment to the 2014 Defense Appropriations Act by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) was narrowly defeated 205 to 217 in a truly bipartisan vote, the fact it even came up for a vote was a victory.

The amendment would have defunded any collection of communications data including phone call, email, and other records on U.S. persons “if such things do not pertain to a person who is the subject of an investigation.”

Amash and Republican backers of his amendment threatened to join Democrats in blocking the entire legislation funding the military if it was not brought to the floor, forcing the Rules Committee to allow it and leadership including House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) into the roles of mere bystanders.

The consideration of the amendment itself was considered such an emergency that the White House scrambled to send NSA head General Keith Alexander to Capitol Hill to lobby against it — holding a top secret meeting with lawmakers to persuade them of the utility of the program. This too was a victory, for it compelled the national security apparatus to defend wide scale intelligence gathering on all persons in the nation, confirming it views pretty much everyone as a potential threat.

Even though the amendment failed, this may only be a lost battle in a war that will eventually won be against the domestic surveillance of millions of Americans not suspected of any crime.

A mere seven vote swing would have secured a major victory for opponents of the spying program. That is the narrowest of margins in the House of Representatives with elections every two years.

We are already in the midst of a paradigm shift in public attitudes toward homeland security policy. The first signs could be seen in the filibuster mounted by Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) against now-Central Intelligence Agency Director John Brennan. Then, the issue was over drone policy, and whether the White House felt that lethal force could be used against a U.S. citizen on U.S. soil.

Eventually, Paul relented and Brennan was confirmed. In the process, not much changed about U.S. policy on the matter, with the Obama Administration still claiming that it possesses the power to use military force against any person, any place, any time dubbed by the government to be an enemy combatant.

What did change dramatically, however, was the politics on security issues. The American people, quite overwhelmingly, supported Paul’s filibuster and were deeply disturbed over the prospect of war powers being used against citizens on the homeland.

In a similar vein, in light of the disclosures by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, the American people are again asking questions about what sort of surveillance state is being built right under their very noses.

If nothing else, the Paul filibuster and the Amash amendment — and the strong grassroots support they have already generated — stand as proof that the nation expects their elected representatives not only to protect them against foreign threats, but against vast government intrusion and overreach.

Importantly, they have at least given the American people a political problem that can now be dealt with — by holding members accountable who voted to fund the domestic spying establishment.

These are the types of discussions we all expect Congress to have, and yet they are all too rare. When they do occur, we are reminded of just how important having them really is. And that too is a victory.

Robert Romano is the Senior Editor of Americans for Limited Government.

This article has 15 comments
  • littlepeaks 25.07.2013 11:52 AM

    “Holding a top secret meeting with lawmakers .. “. Do all members of the House of Representatives have top secret clearances?

  • Goldmouse 25.07.2013 1:38 PM

    Has to be Top Secret so that the Public will not know they are being Sold out to Obama for special Favors and Kick Backs. Lawmakers have gotten so corrupt it is not longer law making, it is Special interest dealings.

  • USPatriotOne 25.07.2013 1:52 PM

    What is wrong with these people? Don’t they have ability to do anything right? They know this is and act of TYRANNY and this the way of a Police State…What the heck is wrong with Evil SOB’s…!!! NWO/Commies/Muslims/Evil…PLAIN AND SIMPLE…!!! Congress needs to go to heck along with the SOB’s in OUR WH…!!!

  • USPatriotOne 25.07.2013 1:55 PM

    Evil is as Evil does…!!!

  • wigwig 25.07.2013 2:04 PM

    AGAIN, SOMEONE REMIND ME…WHY IS THE GOP DIFFERENT FROM THE DEMS? Hmmmmmmmmm?

  • Patriot Games 25.07.2013 3:25 PM

    This government is a disgrace.

    It’s time to flush the toilet in D.C.

  • aRareSaneOne 25.07.2013 3:41 PM

    A mere seven vote swing would have meant a victory for those opposed to NSA spying on all Americans – every email, every phone call, every text, every web posting. Every dictator salivates at such power as the NSA/KGB has.

  • jwatersphd 25.07.2013 6:39 PM

    There was more support for Amash from Democrats
    than Republicans, by quite a margin. (This includes all the legislators from my
    state, whom I contacted.) Many tea party favorites, such as Bachmann and P Ryan, voted vs it. Wonder how this fits with the Tea Party lore.

  • Fran 26.07.2013 12:37 AM

    I am wondering if those who voted to keep the NSA surveillance as law know something that the public does not…it would appear to be true since the hearing were done behind close doors. If the government can invade our privacy then how come we cannot as the citizens who voted these people in cannot listen or be privy to their meetings. Hmmm!!

  • Randy Hitt 26.07.2013 5:48 AM

    Yeah, those who voted to unconstitutionally continue to unconstitutionally spy on BORN FREE AMERICANS know that their necks will be in 9/11 nooses if they can’t enslave America quick.

  • Randy Hitt 26.07.2013 5:49 AM

    Bachmann and Ryan lost their TEA Party credentials a long time ago

  • jwatersphd 26.07.2013 6:15 AM

    You can’t tell the players without a program. I guess Party discipline must be pretty strict. Who are the brave, the proud, the few that decide these things? I suppose if you have to ask, you’re not a member.

  • Frank_O 27.07.2013 9:40 AM

    The fact that this measure failed in the Republican dominated House despite a lot of Democratic support, reveals once again how bad most of the Republicans are in Congress. This SHOULD have been a slam dunk win in getting rid of some clearly Unconstitutional behavior by our Federal Government.

    As “wigwig” commented: “AGAIN, SOMEONE REMIND ME…WHY IS THE GOP DIFFERENT FROM THE DEMS?”
    Answer: There is no real difference. Both the Ds & Rs support big, Unconstitutional government but of slightly different flavors.

    Which is why we desperately need to have the GOP die off asap to be replaced by a real alternative Party that stands for small, Constitutional government, a restoration of our liberties, a balanced budget & a return to sound money (gold/silver, or anything else acceptable to “We the People”).

  • Rubygirl 30.07.2013 3:04 PM

    Fran, I checked my reps and the most LIBERAL one in our state voted YES, the Rep/Conservatives voted NO. Very strange..I was not home to call prior to the vote but I will call my Rep to find out WHY!! My REP is very conservative and supports the Tea Party!

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