In a terse statement late Tuesday evening, the White House blasted the so-called “Amash Amendment” that would limit the National Security Agency’s ability to collect data on personal phone communications, calling the program crucial to national security.
“We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation,” Press Secretary Jay Carney said.
The amendment is one of several the House of Representatives will consider to the 2014 defence Appropriations Bill. It was introduced by Rep. Justin Amash, a libertarian Republican from Michigan, and has earned bipartisan backing from, among others, Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.) and Jared Polis (D-Colo.). Conyers is a co-sponsor.
The amendment would “end authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act,” as well as prevent the NSA from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect records, “including telephone call records, that pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation under Section 215.” It is targeted at the first part of revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden in disclosures to The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald.
Tuesday’s statement clearly shows that the White House is worried about it passing. The NSA is also worried — it held a “top secret” meeting with members of Congress to lobby against the amendment.
The vote could take place as early as Wednesday evening. It comes a little more than a month after Snowden exposed a trove of agency secrets about the bulk collection programs, something that has prompted a debate over the surveillance programs.
Here’s the full statement from Carney:
In light of the recent unauthorised disclosures, the President has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens. The Administration has taken various proactive steps to advance this debate including the President’s meeting with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, his public statements on the disclosed programs, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s release of its own public statements, ODNI General Counsel Bob Litt’s speech at Brookings, and ODNI’s decision to declassify and disclose publicly that the Administration filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. We look forward to continuing to discuss these critical issues with the American people and the Congress.
However, we oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism tools. This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process. We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.
Amash fired back in a tweet late Tuesday night:
Pres Obama opposes my #NSA amendment, but American people overwhelmingly support it. Will your Rep stand with the WH or the Constitution?
— Justin Amash (@repjustinamash) July 24, 2013
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