Justin Amash Leads Liberty's Backlash

Snowden's NSA revelation is igniting a bipartisan defense of civil liberties.


Last week, Justin Amash, the two-term libertarian Republican congressman from Michigan, joined with John Conyers, the 25-term liberal Democratic congressman from the same state, to offer an amendment to legislation funding the National Security Agency (NSA). If enacted, the Amash-Conyers amendment would have forced the government's domestic spies when seeking search warrants to capture Americans' phone calls, texts and emails first to identify their targets and produce evidence of their terror-related activities before a judge may issue a warrant. The support they garnered had a surprising result that stunned the Washington establishment.

It almost passed.

The final vote, in which the Amash-Conyers amendment was defeated by 205 to 217, was delayed for a few hours by the House Republican leadership, which opposed the measure. The Republican leadership team, in conjunction with President Obama and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, needed more time for arm-twisting so as to avoid a humiliating loss.

But the House rank-and-file did succeed in sending a message to the big-government types in both parties: Nearly half of the House of Representatives has had enough of government spying and then lying about it, and understands that spying on every American simply cannot withstand minimal scrutiny or basic constitutional analysis.

The president is deeply into this and no doubt wishes he wasn't. He now says he welcomed the debate in the House on whether his spies can have all they want from us or whether they are subject to constitutional requirements for their warrants. Surely he knows that the Supreme Court has ruled consistently since the time of the Civil War that the government is always subject to the Constitution, wherever it goes and whatever it does.

As basic as that sounds, it is not a universally held belief among the power elites. Gen. James Clapper, the current boss of all domestic spies, obviously lied when he testified under oath to a Senate committee recently that the government was not accumulating massive amounts of data about tens or hundreds of millions of Americans. Gen. Keith Alexander, the head of the NSA, materially misled a House committee when he was asked under oath whether the NSA has the "ability" to listen to phone calls and he stated it lacks the "authority" to do so. Right off the bat, we can see that these senior spies do not feel bound by the laws prohibiting perjury and the misleading of Congress.

Congress itself has legislatively attempted to amend the Constitution, knowing that the supreme law of the land can only be amended by three-quarters of the states. The Constitution requires probable cause of criminal activity to be presented to a judge as a precondition of the judge issuing a search warrant. It also requires that the warrant particularly describe the place to be searched or the person or thing to be seized.

Yet, Congress told the secret FISA court that it can avoid the Constitution and issue a warrant to any spy looking for the phone calls and electronic communications of anyone in America, without probable cause, without naming the persons whose records are sought and without describing the place to be searched. Secrecy-smitten judges, whose clerks are NSA agents and who are not permitted to keep copies of their own rulings, have gone along with this.

Obama, who did not want a national debate on all this before Edward Snowden blew the whistle on it, has backed off of his earlier claims that the feds are not reading emails or listening to phone calls. He has done this, no doubt, in light of unrefuted statements by Snowden and other NSA whistleblowers to the effect that federal spies can with the press of a computer key read emails and hear phone calls. Only after the Snowden revelations did Obama welcome the "debate" in the House. That debate, in which more than half of his own party rejected his spying, lasted precisely 24 minutes.

How can a deliberative body of 434 current members debate an issue as monumental as whether the government is bound by the Constitution when it seeks out terrorists in just 24 minutes? Apparently, the House Republican leadership that established the absurd 24-minute rule feared a serious and meaningful public discussion in which its authoritarian impulses would need to confront the Constitution its members swore to uphold. In that 24-minute time span, millions—millions—of Americans' phone calls and emails were swept into the NSA's supercomputers in defiance of the Constitution.

There is a political wildfire burning in the land, and we should all be grateful to Snowden for igniting it. The fire eventually will consume the political derelictions of those who have abandoned their oaths to uphold the Constitution so they can sound tough back home. The Amash-Conyers amendment would have required the feds to tell the court the name of the person whose communications they seek and the evidence they have against that person—just as the Constitution requires. And it would have prohibited the NSA dragnets the Constitution obviously was written to prevent.

Instead we have the almost unimaginable prospect and the nearly unthinkable reality of the feds claiming that they can legally put every person in America under their privacy-invading scrutiny in order to catch a few dozen evil ones—most of whom were entrapped by the FBI in the first place and never posed a serious danger to the public or the nation.

Would we all be safer if the feds could knock down any door they wished and arrest any person they chose? Who would want to live in such a society? What value is the Constitution if those in whose hands we have reposed it for safekeeping are afraid to do so?

I expect that the Amash-Conyers amendment will be back on the floor of the House soon. When it is, who will have the courage to preserve, protect and defend personal liberty in a free society?

NEXT: Brickbat: Getting Bombed

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  1. Dude seems to be a tad bit full of himself.


  2. Secrecy-smitten judges, whose clerks are NSA agents and who are not permitted to keep copies of their own rulings, have gone along with this.

    Judge smackdown!

    1. Beaten by Anonbot.

      Fisty smackdown! :-p

  3. The fire eventually will consume the political derelictions of those who have abandoned their oaths

    But not their careers? Or them? Just the things they ought to be ashamed of?

    1. I like what Amash, Curz, and Paul are doing – but I’m skeptical about the size of that backlash.

      1. The only backlash is from racists trying to kick our glorious dark skinned messiah.

        1. So if I criticize our glorious dark-skinned messiah for being too much like Bush, am I suffering from internalized anti-white racism?

          1. only if you critic our glorious leader’s white side of the family tree

      2. and the backlash to the backlash. Musn’t forget 2nd/3rd order effects…

      3. Curz is a great man.

    2. my friend’s sister-in-law makes $70/hour on the laptop. She has been out of work for 5 months but last month her check was $14048 just working on the laptop for a few hours. Read more on this web site.. http://www.Rush60.com

  4. The problem is that politicians take an oath to what they feel the Constitution should mean, rather than what it actually does.

    And they get re-elected no matter what.

    You can’t blame politicians when the public isn’t willing to simply vote them out. Heck, many people don’t even bother to vote. We’ve gotten the government we deserve.

    1. I don’t think things would be any better if more people voted. There are a few people who refuse to vote on principle, but most non-voters are also low-information citizens.

      The information revolution is starting to solve that problem, I think. But it is happening slowly and being resisted at every turn. Hopefully increased information about how authority works will push more and more people towards voting for individual liberty.

      1. There are a few people who refuse to vote on principle

        Sure there are people who refuse, on principle, to vote. But most people don’t vote on principle. They vote their feelings. And that’s part of the reason why we have the problems we have.

        1. They vote their pocketbooks even more so than their feelings, I believe. And I don’t mean big picture financial concerns such as the rising national debt or the Fed, which they figure are way too complicated to even think about. No, they vote based on their own personal finances — “This guy says he’ll increase the freebies I get? Then I’m voting for him and I don’t care about being spied on because I’m no terrorist!”

          Even the most brazenly incompetent and/or corrupt politico will be virtually guaranteed reelection as long as he or she promises stuff to the constituents back home — and that includes the crony capitalists and subsidizers, not just the welfare state supporters.

      2. The information revolution is starting to solve that problem, I think.

        Wouldn’t it be more accurate to call it a ‘propaganda revolution’?

    2. That’s because people are given pretty much 2 choices. If you’re a Republican, you may not like Mitt Romney, but you’d think he is way better than Obama (even if they aren’t all that different). You’re constantly given the choice between an imperfect guy from your party, or the guy from the other party which you definitely can’t support. I’d say that’s definitely true with democrats. At least the Republicans have the Tea Party to challenge politicians when they stray for the most part. Even so, there’s no guarantee that any politician will keep his campaign promises. voting is a suggestion box for slaves.

    3. “The problem is that politicians take an oath to what they feel the Constitution should mean”

      You give them too much credit. The Constitution is irrelevant. It and their oath have no meaning to them.

  5. Ha! You stupid pawns of the Great Satan, all your liberties have been stolen because of your fears of Allah’s wrath. We won. You lost. A few thousand dead and your hallowed freedom was given up with out a whimper. Such pussies, enjoy your chains bitches.

    Soldier of Allah

    1. Oh, I get it. Operation Talk Like a Terrorist Everyday, right? Almost forgot about it.

      1. It’s much more complicated than that, crashland. While that may have accelerated the loss of freedom, the roots go back much further. Remember the Red Scare of the 40s and 50s? HUAAC and Joseph McCarthy and all that? And remember the P.C. movement that began on campuses in the 80s, where free speech is only free as long as no one feels offended by what is said?

  6. I’m loving Kennedy on Opie and Anthony right now.

    1. I vote foe. 😉

  7. Not that I support bulk data collection, but why no mention of the so-called third-party doctrine circumventing the requirement for a probable cause based warrant by treating all this stuff as business records?

    1. ‘Cuz that was covered in an earlier article.

    2. Because FYTW

    3. because they aren’t getting all of it from the business. If they got it all, like the do from Verizon, from the business, there wouldn’t be much the customer could do about it besides get another provider or dig through their privacy clause of their contract to see if it was supposed to protect them. The NSA isn’t doing that for the most part. They’re just intercepting it.

  8. There will not be a backlash until there is a republican president. What was sop under Johnson and Kennedy became Watergate under Nixon. People like McCain who are defending this stuff are just setting up the next republican president for failure. If this stuff isn’t stopped now the next r president will roll in and continue business as usual. And the media will ” discover” the government is listening to everything.

    1. I think the backlash is already happening, but in a slow powerful kind of way.

  9. Wishful thinking this, in a world where putting a city on lockdown and generally acting like a bunch of terrified monkeys (because a homemade bomb or two killed 3 of the unluckiest people on the planet) can immediately translate into a self congratulating bumper sticker that proclaims the driver to be “Boston Strong”.

  10. The title of this piece is a bit misleading. I thought this would talk about Amash a little bit more

  11. I basically make about………$6,000k-$8,000k a month online………. It’s enough to comfortably replace my old jobs income, especially considering I only work about 10-13 hours a week from home. go to this site home tab for more detail …. http://WWW.JOBS31.COM

  12. my buddy’s step-sister makes $72 an hour on the computer. She has been laid off for 8 months but last month her payment was $12918 just working on the computer for a few hours. Here’s the site to read more,,,,

  13. quit his job and traveled to Afghanistan at his own risk and on his own dime. He had never covered

  14. quit his job and traveled to Afghanistan at his own risk and on his own dime. He had never covered

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