NSA

House Voting on Amash Amendment to Defund NSA Tomorrow

Latest defense spending bill now being considered by the House

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no such agency
NSA

A victory in the Rules Committee last night means the House will consider the Amash Amendment, which seeks to defund the NSA's domestic surveillance programs, as well as another amendment that seeks to bar the NSA from collecting data on Americans unless they're under investigation. They're both amendments to the latest defense spending bill. While Rep. Justin Amash thanked Speaker Boehner last night via Twitter for "working diligently" over concerns about the amendment process after the Rules Committee vote, it took some work to get Boehner there. Via Buzzfeed:

Boehner and Amash had been negotiating over the amendment and Amash had threatened to vote against a procedural vote on the bill — and bring some 20 Republican votes along to defeat it — if his amendment did not get a vote.

"I would be very surprised if you could get a Department of Defense appropriations rule through this house with out a reasonable amendment like this being allowed on the floor," Amash said last week in an interview with BuzzFeed.

As Amash noted while urging people to contact their member of Congress, again via Twitter, the work's not done until the vote tomorrow. Several grassroots internet activists have set up a website, DefundtheNSA.com, which explains the Amash Amendment and provides a way to find and contact your member of Congress about the vote.

The Rules victory also means several other defense bill amendments will be considered by the House. Some of those are, via Fox News:

On Syria, the House will vote on a proposal from Florida Republican Rep. Trey Radel, who is seeking to block funding for military operations in Syria inconsistent with the War Powers Resolution…

The House will also consider an amendment introduced by Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Amash that prohibits the use of funding for military or paramilitary operations in Egypt.

On Guantanamo Bay, members will vote on a proposal by Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va, and Adam Smith, D-Wash., that would permit the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States or elsewhere.

All of those votes will likely come tomorrow. You can see more information about the defense bill, HR 2397, here.

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  1. I’ll be surprised if this passes (especially both houses), but it’s at least a start. Congress needs to get aggressive in such matters.

    1. Cutting their funding is the only thing they understand. If you defunded the NSA, the CIA and the rest of the IC community would wet their pants in fear. It would be 30 years before they ever thought about spying on an American again.

      1. It really doesn’t take much more than the threat if Congress makes loud enough noises about this. In fact, if the GOP had any balls, it would threaten to kill even more appropriations–you know, for things like Obamadare, undeclared wars, and other unconstitutional and/or stupid activities.

        1. Yes. All of the power is in Congress. Interesting to see what will happen if the GOP takes the Senate in 2014. With control of both houses, they could put a budget on Obama’s desk that zeroed out thinks like Obamacare and the NSA and tell Obama if he wants to shut down the government to save domestic spying and his hated healthcare program, good luck.

          1. The House could stand its ground and refuse to vote for funding of policies it opposes. The Senate can’t make them!

            1. The House is incredibly important when it comes to spending. I’ve long thought the LP missed the boat by not focusing its energies on Congress.

            2. The problem with that theory is that politicians are stupid pussies.

              1. No doubt. What’s the single reason for Congress to not defend its prerogatives and to not delegate (improperly and illegally in most cases in my opinion) power to the executive? Avoiding accountability. It’s that simple.

              2. Because it pays for them to be stupid pussies.

          2. Or, you know, appoint a special prosecutor and get the ball rolling on impeachment. I want to see that bastard perp-walked out of the White House.

        2. Following through on even one, in even one branch of Congress would be a start. Although as long as Congress continues to vote and tweak CBOs, it will never be a serious threat.

          1. Exactly. Just once, and they’ve reasserted congressional power. That’s the one area in our system really needs fixing–branch prerogatives should come before party loyalties. I know that’s not how things are working now, but it’s actually in the interest of those who crave power in Congress to do this.

        3. Yeah but then when Team Red gets the White House back, it might give Team Blue the idea to defund appropriations for their domestic boondoggles, undeclared wars, and other unconstitutional/stupid activities.

          A robust, oppositional Congress is in no ones best interest.

          1. There’s some truth in this, but it’s not entirely symmetrical, especially now. I think there is a growing and significant arm of the GOP, especially in Congress, that wants to limit the state in one way or the other. Not necessarily libertarian, especially on immigration and foreign policy, but at least concerned about reining in the domestic insanity, regardless of the party leading the asylum.

            1. Your inevitable disappointment will bring me much bitter joy.

              1. Look, it’s at least a marginal improvement. Whether that translates to anything useful is another matter.

                A strong minority of “No, fuck you, cut spending” could pay massive dividends for us. Just that, even without the other stuff we happen to care about.

      2. Even if they do defund, the NSA has plenty of slush funds to continue surveillance on Americans. The only way we would ever know is if another Snowden came forward. I assure you, future whistleblowers is what the NSA and all other agencies are working to stop. After all these bureaucrats have their priorities.

  2. Must be getting tougher for the intelligence community to arrange for these men to have an “accident” or be caught with a dead hooker.

    1. Maybe, but let’s see how many congressmonkeys survive “accidents” after the vote…

  3. In fact, if the GOP had any balls

    Great. Now I have a blowgun dart lodged in my left lung.

  4. I’m amazed Amash wasn’t viciously put down. That’s actually slightly encouraging.

    1. Amash is al-Qaeda’s best friend. (Read that in all caps.)

  5. Interesting how the administration has a major scandal about spying on Americans, and its point person gets caught lying about the program, but the leader of the opposition had to be dragged kicking and screaming into allowing a debate and vote about these abuses. If Boehner had had his way, there wouldn’t even be a discussion about one of the worst scandals of a Democratic administration. What’s the point of being an opposition party if you don’t do some opposition?

    1. The point is to get in on the corruption and the pork.

      Republican politicians want to get in on the trough too!

      1. The NSA isn’t pork. It is more about neither side wants their to be another 9-11 and get blamed for it. Suppose the Republicans really went after this scandal and there was another 9-11 this fall. It wouldn’t matter that defunding the NSA had nothing to do with the government not stopping the attack. The Dems would kill the Republicans with “they made you less safe because they sold out to the nihilist Tea Baggers”.

        That is what both sides are terrified of and why both sides have to be dragged into doing something about this.

        1. I think the point is that they want to pass a pork-filled budget, and the Senate will insist on an unaccountable NSA being funded as part of the budget. So if the House stands its ground on the NSA, the unrelated pork doesn’t pass. At least that is probably Boehner’s fear. That and another 9/11 (see below).

          1. It is so easy to demagogue on a terrorist attack and so unlikely that the people in government actually responsible for the fuck up getting blamed, it is hard to get politicians to make rational decisions.

            Look at 9-11. The failure to stop the 9-11 plotters lies totally at the feat of the NSA and the FBI. They were the ones who had all of the information to stop the thing from happening and failed to share it and do something about it. But they ended up blaming the INS for not enforcing a couple of VISA overstays, as if there are not thousands of those all of the time.

            1. But they ended up blaming the INS for not enforcing a couple of VISA overstays, as if there are not thousands of those all of the time.

              The INS isn’t responsible for anything because they’re obviously inept?

              1. No. The fact that 19 guys overstayed their VISAs is not the cause of 9-11. The INS concentrated on going after criminal overstays. And thanks to the NSA and the FBI never telling them anything, they had no idea that these guys were dangerous. Unless you want to GPS tag everyone with a VISA, there will always be overstays. You can’t have 100% compliance. And the fact that these guys overstayed is not necessarily an indictment of the INS. The fact that the INS had no idea they were working for Bin Ladin and here to blow shit up even though the NSA knew they were, is one hell of an indictment of the NSA.

                1. Unless you want to GPS tag everyone with a VISA, there will always be overstays.

                  Why should it be that friggin difficult? There are agents checking identification at almost every and exit port. You know when somebody comes, you know when their visa expires and you know when they leave. How is it complicated to know if an applicant overstayed their visa again? It’s a wonder people actually get food at a drive through window, isn’t it?

                2. Unless you want to GPS tag everyone with a VISA, there will always be overstays. You can’t have 100% compliance.

                  Not really arguing the point of who is to blame for 9/11, but really…overstay your visa in Russia sometime. They don’t attach GPS devices to visitors, but they damn sure know if you’re supposed to be gone and where you’re supposed to be while you’re there. Every bit of information needed to know those things is on a Visa application.

            2. We’re vulnerable to terrorist attacks because we’re more or less an open society. Less open than we once were, but still closer to open than not.

              I still believe that our most potent defense against terrorist attacks is the fear that we’ll come back with an insanely disproportionate response. Just like we did with 9/11. Frankly, even though I personally oppose much of what we’re doing so far, I think that turned out to be a major defeat for al Qaeda and only domestic-based handwringing sees it as anything else.

              Again, I oppose most of what we’re doing today, so this isn’t a rah-rah comment. But the ability to easily topple governments isn’t something the governments of the region are likely to ignore.

              1. I think that is a big deterrent to state sponsored terrorism. I firmly believe the threat now, such as it is, is loser like the Hussain and the Boston bombers deciding on their own to be heroes for the jihad. Outside of maybe Iran, I don’t think there is a country on earth who would sponsor a serious terror attack against us.

                1. What happened in Boston is the kind of thing we’ll always face, no matter what we do. Whackjobs (likely) independently doing stupid and evil things. Ditto our domestic mass murderers.

                  9/11, though, and al-Qaeda in general, had national support. That’s something we can and have dealt with, with dramatically bad consequences for those who allowed that support.

                  1. Yes. Even if the Taliban were to retake Afghanistan, that would mean death for hundreds of thousands and maybe millions of Afghans. But I would be surprised the Taliban would ever want to sponsor the next Arab who wants to use it as a base to attack the US.

                    Imagine if we go home in 2014 and the Taliban take over and then in say 2017 there is another 9-11 sponsored out of Afghanistan. I honestly think we might nuke them. We wouldn’t be interested in nation building and we would have no interest in showing any mercy. Not even the Taliban is crazy enough to tempt that.

                    1. We don’t have to nuke a country like that. We could just do the two-week topple the government thing, dropping the nation-building concept altogether.

                    2. That is what we did in 01, and it didn’t work. You can’t just “topple the government”. You have to capture and or kill its leaders. And to do that takes people on the ground. Where we fucked up in 01 was not putting any troops in and letting the Northern Alliance be our ground force. It toppled the government alright. But it allowed all of the top government people to escape. We would have to invade with overwhelming force and capture their leaders before they escaped. We wouldn’t have to stay for ten years. But we would have to go and do more than just bomb.

                    3. We don’t have to nuke a country like that. We could just do the two-week topple the government thing, dropping the nation-building concept altogether.

                      Hopefully we have lost our lust for nation building and would take this course. Topple the government and get the hell out. Then make sure they understand that we will preemptively topple their next government if isn’t more reasonable than the last.

                    4. Then make sure they understand that we will preemptively topple their next government if isn’t more reasonable than the last.

                      But doing that would require use killing people in a pretty ruthless manner so they understood they had something to fear. And the very same people who claim to not want to nation build, would have a stroke over that. I can’t imagine the fit Reason would throw if the US did a real no kidding punitive expedition in response to a terrorist attack. OF course they throw a fit if we nation build too.

                    5. I’m not saying we just start knocking down governments we don’t like like in Iraq. In each case we need evidence that they are supporting terrorism against the US or its citizens. That evidence can be political rhetoric plus demonstrated capabilities or it can be intelligence indicating safe havens for terrorists within the country.

                2. Outside of maybe Iran, I don’t think there is a country on earth who would sponsor a serious terror attack against us.

                  I don’t think even Iran would do that. To do such a thing would require a ruler who is willing to sacrifice his life or liberty for a cause. But no one capable of gaining control of a country is going to be willing to give up that power for anything. Fundamentalists and wackos are the only terrorist threat left. The only thing you can do is prosecute the wackos, annihilate the fundamentalists and try to convince the average American to just calm the fuck down.

                  1. If Iran gets nukes they would. If they have nukes, what is the US going to do about? Risk a nuclear war and hundreds of thousands dead over a few thousand dead? A nuclear armed Iran is going to be a son of a bitch to contain.

                    1. To be sure, we briefly invaded a nuclear power to kill bin Laden.

                    2. That nuclear power, though, is nominally a US ally.

                    3. Iran’s nuclear program is like NORK’s nuclear program. It isn’t there to impress the outside world. It certainly isn’t there to use against the outside world. It’s there to impress the citizens and to strike fear into internal enemies.

    2. He definitely needs to go. It shows how much the system itself is broken that a piss-poor speaker has the job. Following an even crappier speaker in Pelosi, of course, who had a lot to do with GOP electoral success in 2010.

      1. And no impeachment or even investigation of Bush admin misdeeds.

  6. The Amish are spying on the NSA?

    1. The Amish version of the NSA is a guy with an ear-trumpet who tries to overhear what subversives are saying.

    2. Reverse spying. They’re being so overt in their actions that it’s leading the NSA away from their true cause: building an army of motorized buggies.

      1. Motorized buggies? I figured they were breeding shoggoth.

  7. I would be very surprised if you could get a Department of Defense appropriations rule through this house with out a reasonable amendment like this being allowed on the floor

    “Nice speakership you got there. Be a shame if something were to happen to it.”

    1. In this case, blackmail is the only honorable option.

  8. Backs were scratched.

  9. Called my Congressman.

    A couple weeks ago Amash tweeted out a photo showing that he was the Republican least likely to vote with Nancy Pelosi. Who is my Congressman? The Republican most likely to vote with Nancy Pelosi.

    C’est la vie

    1. Most likely to vote with Pelosi? I figured there would be a number of Democrats on that list. All tied for 100%.

      1. The Republican most likely to vote with Nancy Pelosi.

        1. Ah. I missed that part. Thanks.

    2. I e-mailed mine; don’t know if that has the same cachet as a ‘phone call but I’m not sitting around on hold.

  10. Josh: you had me at “Cut”.

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