Congressman’s last-minute move could defund NSA, cut spying on Americans

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) has figured out a way to stop the NSA from collecting Americans' metadata—cut the funding for it.

 

Kevin Collier

Tech

Published Jul 23, 2013   Updated Jun 1, 2021, 10:52 am CDT

Activists are scrambling to back a congressman who might have found a way to cut the National Security Agency’s spying on Americans.

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Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) has tacked on an amendment to the year’s defense appropriations bill to severely slash the NSA‘s funding.

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Specifically, it would gut the agency’s ability to collect the telephone metadata of every American, en masse, without a warrant. Created back in June, Amash’s amendment got clearance Monday evening to go before a vote on the House floor.

Leaked documents have shown the NSA has been collecting that metadata since at least the immediate aftermath of September 11th, 2001. The practice was explicitly made legal in Section 702 of the PATRIOT Act, and then expanded by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). But Americans didn’t grow widely outraged about it until June, when former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked a secret court order that shows that Verizon is legally compelled to send over the phone records of every single call made in America.

On Friday, in accordance with a general consensus that it would do so, the Director of National Intelligence announced that the U.S. had extended its metadata collection program for another three months.

But that would be the last time, if Amash and his supporters get their way. The same activists who created the anti-spying action site Stop Watching Us have set up a site called Defund the NSA, aimed at connecting Americans with their representatives in Congress to convince them to vote on Amash’s bill. As he wrote on Twitter:

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Phone calls to your Representative’s office are *much* more effective than most people think. http://t.co/oBs8j1EXKl

— Justin Amash (@repjustinamash) July 22, 2013

But the NSA isn’t taking that opposition lying down. According to a memo obtained by the Huffington Post, the NSA’s head, Gen. Keith Alexander, is hosting an emergency meeting with frequent collaborator Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.), ranking member of the House Intelligence Committee. In an apparent attempt to quell concerns about the program, the meeting will invite members of Congress to ask Alexander about the agency’s metadata collection practices.

Amash has said the House will vote on his amendment Wednesday evening or Thursday morning.

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Photo by gageskidmore/Flickr

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*First Published: Jul 23, 2013, 1:52 pm CDT