Tags: Rep. Justin Amash | NSA | spying | email

Rep. Justin Amash Rips Expanded NSA Spying OK'd by Congress

By    |   Friday, 12 Dec 2014 07:26 PM

In the middle of this week's all-consuming deadline budget negotiations, Congress quietly passed a separate bill granting the National Security Agency broad new powers to collect Americans' phone and email communications without warrants, share the data with the FBI and foreign governments, and, in some instances, retain the records indefinitely, according to reports.

The bill "grants the executive branch virtually unlimited access to the communications of every American," Rep. Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican and outspoken privacy advocate who tried to stop the measure, wrote afterward on Facebook, National Journal reports.

With public attention focused on the House's titanic struggle to pass a $1.1 trillion spending package, a 47-page bill funding intelligence agencies sailed through the Senate virtually unopposed — and with no revival of the debate about NSA spying first prompted by the revelations of Edward Snowden.

It was headed for quick House passage on Wednesday night until Amash, a frequent critic of NSA spying practices, spotted the new surveillance language and tried to rally opposition.

The bill still passed, 325-100, and is headed to President Obama for his signature.

At issue is a provision that appears to expand warrant-less data collection using a Reagan-era directive as legal cover — despite the fact that electronic communications of the type the NSA targets today did not exist in 1981, when President Reagan signed the decree known as Executive Order 12333.

Critics say that what was sold as a regulatory check on the NSA by congressional backers of the new language — primarily members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, who quietly wrote it into the intelligence bill — is, in fact, a veritable free pass for unregulated spying on Americans.

"It is good that Congress is trying to regulate 12333 activities," John Napier Tye, a former State Department Internet policy official turned whistleblower, told U.S. News & World Report. "But the language in this bill just endorses a terrible system that allows the NSA to take virtually everything Americans do online and use it however it wants according to the rules it writes."

Under the intelligence bill Congress approved, any "nonpublic telephone or electronic communication" that intelligence agencies happen to sweep up from Americans without a warrant can be held for five years — longer if it is deemed to contain evidence of a crime — and shared with the FBI and foreign governments, according to Tye.

The provision is so controversial that if it "hadn't been snuck in, I doubt it would have passed," Rep. Zoe Lofgren, a California Democrat who voted against the bill, told National Journal.

A lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, Neema Singh Guliani, told U.S. News that the bill's critics have "legitimate" concerns, and that Congress should revisit the issue as soon as possible to make it clear that lawmakers are not endorsing an expanded surveillance regime on the basis of a 34-year-old executive order.

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Congress has quietly passed a bill granting the National Security Agency broad new powers to collect Americans' phone and email communications without warrants, share the data with the FBI and, in some instances, retain the records indefinitely, according to reports.
Rep. Justin Amash, NSA, spying, email
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2014-26-12
Friday, 12 Dec 2014 07:26 PM
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