Defund the NSA: Groups Urge Congress to End Dragnet Surveillance

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by
Common Dreams

Defund the NSA: Groups Urge Congress to End Dragnet Surveillance

NSA funding amendment vote scheduled for Wednesday

by
Jacob Chamberlain, staff writer

The U.S. House of Representatives will vote Wednesday on a proposed amendment that would strip funding from programs within the National Security Agency that collect the telephone and internet communications of millions of US citizens. 

A coalition of groups, including Demand Progress, have teamed up to create a Defund the NSA internet campaign urging citizens to contact and put pressure on their representatives to vote for the amendment and against the dragnet surveillance programs.

The petition by Demand Progress states, "As the NSA spying revelations continue to unfold, we increasingly find ourselves facing the reality that—at any moment—the federal government could be listening to our phone calls, watching our email traffic, keeping tabs on our Internet browsing, or worse."

"We have a chance of winning this vote," the group states, adding that at the very least the vote also presents the opportunity to get lawmakers on record. "We'll finally know who supports spying on Americans, and who opposes it," they state.

The amendment comes nearly six weeks after the Guardian newspaper began publishing information based on documents leaked by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, which revealed previously unknown details about the extent of NSA spying and how it interprets domestic laws designed to govern such activities.

The amendment, introduced by Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI), is proposed for the Defense Appropriations Bill, which allocates taxpayer money for Pentagon and other military programs.

"In order for funds to be used by the NSA, the court order would have to have a statement limiting the collection of records to [the] records that pertain to a person under investigation," Amash explained during a House Rules Committee meeting Monday.

As the Electronic Frontier Foundation writes, "Passage of the Amash amendment would send a clear message to the NSA and other intelligence agencies that the heyday of unchecked dragnet surveillance is coming to at an end."

The summary of the amendment on the House of Representatives website says the provision,

Ends authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act. Bars the NSA and other agencies 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.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Sen. Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) issued a joint statement Tuesday calling the amendment “unwise,” adding to the growing chorus from Democrats and Republicans alike who openly support the NSA's vast spying programs.

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