Amash NSA defunding amendment squashed

July 24, 2013 at 8:12 PM
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WASHINGTON, July 24 (UPI) -- The U.S. House Wednesday narrowly defeated Rep. Justin Amash's attempt to severely restrict the National Security Agency's telephone data mining.

The Michigan Republican's measure, opposed by the White House and congressional leaders on both sides of the aisle, was voted down 205-217, Roll Call reported.

The Washington publication said 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats sided with Amash.

A majority of House members sided with Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., who said the NSA surveillance is needed to keep the United States safe from terror attacks.

"Fifty-four times this program stopped and thwarted terrorist attacks here and in Europe, saving real lives. This isn't a game. This is real," Rogers said.

He said he would work to include "additional privacy protections" in an upcoming intelligence authorization bill.

But Amash said he saw his amendment as a way to protect civil liberties.

"We are here today for a very simple reason, to defend the Fourth Amendment, to defend the privacy of each and every American," he said.

The White House came out strongly against the amendment.

"In light of the recent unauthorized 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 White House said in a statement Tuesday. "However, we oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our intelligence community's counter-terrorism tools. This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process."

Amash's amendment would have barred the NSA from citing the Patriot Act to collect data on individuals not being investigated, effectively ending the huge Internet and cellphone data collection programs leaked last month by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, The Hill reported. The amendment was given a vote as part of the defense appropriations bill.

"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," the statement said.

NSA Director Keith Alexander went to Capitol Hill Tuesday to field questions from lawmakers during a classified, members-only briefing, The Hill said.

Leaders from the House and Senate Intelligence committees, which oversee NSA programs, blasted Amash's amendment Tuesday and seven House committee leaders asked colleagues in a letter to vote "no" on the amendment.

Amash commented on the White House statement on his Twitter page, which he has used to urge supporters to lobby their members to support his measure.

"Pres Obama opposes my #NSA amendment, but American people overwhelmingly support it," Amash posted. "Will your Rep stand with the WH or the Constitution?"

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