Ever since it was revealed that the NSA was spying on Americans in early June, some members of Congress have proposed laws to strip the agency of its power. Those proposed laws probably won’t go anywhere anytime soon though. That’s why some members of Congress are now trying to sneak amendments targeting the NSA into bills that are destined to eventually be passed one way or another.
The Hill reports that the latest tactic has some members of the House proposing amendments to the 2014 Defense Department spending bill that would defund parts of the NSA while stripping the agency of its power to target Americans.
The first amendment from Rep. Richard Nugent would target the NSA where it hurts – its funding. His amendment would prohibit the NSA from using any of its federal funding to target Americans. To be more specific, it can’t use any of that money to obtain and store phone call or email data belonging to U.S. citizens.
The second amendment from Reps. Justin Amash and John Conyers goes even further. It prohibits the NSA from collecting communication data from anybody that’s not currently subject to an investigation. In other words, it would stop the collection of incidental data by forcing the NSA to focus only one collecting data from known or suspected criminals.
Both of these amendments are good first steps, but amendments can only do so much. We still need a solid legislative response that tackles the NSA’s spy programs.
Sen. Jeff Merkley proposed the first bill in response to the NSA spy program revelations, and it’s a pretty good one. It would require the secret FISA courts to declassify its “significant opinions.” In other words, it would require the nation’s most secretive court to reveal its reasoning behind approving the NSA’s collection of Americans’ data.
The second proposed bill is from Reps. Amash and Conyers and is very similar to their amendment. It’s called the LIBERT-E Act, and it would put a stop to the NSA’s incidental data collection. It goes further than the above amendment, however, by requiring the Attorney General to brief all of Congress on its spy programs while delivering unclassified FISA court opinions to members of Congress after 180 days.
Unfortunately, these bills have almost no chance of even being taken up by the appropriate committee anytime soon. The best chance lawmakers have against the NSA at the moment is the above amendments, and even they have little chance of making their way into the final bill.
Even so, we’ll continue to follow this story and update when the House votes on these amendments.