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Jul 24 2013

Vote today to defund NSA phone collection

There is an important vote taking place today in Congress. An amendment that seeks to cut funding for the NSA’s bulk collection of people’s communication records under the Patriot Act has been proposed to the big Defense Authorization bill by a bipartisan coalition of libertarian Republicans and liberal Democrats.

It will be the first such vote held by Congress on restricting NSA surveillance after the revelations from ex-contractor Edward Snowden, published in the Guardian and the Washington Post, that detailed a fuller picture of the surveillance authorities than officials had publicly disclosed – something blasted in a fiery Tuesday speech by Senator Ron Wyden, a prominent Democratic critic of the surveillance programs.

In a sign of how crucial the NSA considers its bulk phone records collection, which a secret surveillance court reapproved on Friday, its director, General Keith Alexander, held a four-hour classified briefing with members of Congress. Alexander’s meeting was listed as “top-secret” and divided into two two-hour sessions, the first for Republicans and the second for Democrats. Staffers for the legislators were not permitted to attend.

That the testimony by Alexander was in secret should be no surprise. It would never do for the people who are being spied upon to know the reasons. Like good little children, we have to simply accept that our elders and betters know what is best for us.

Needless to say, this amendment being vigorously opposed by the Obama administration and leaders of both parties in this supposedly gridlocked Congress where they are supposed to be unable to agree on anything. But there are two things on which there is complete bipartisan agreement: creating an all-powerful secretive national security state and giving the oligarchy more money.

White House press secretary Jay Carney had the nerve to say of the proposed amendment, “This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open or deliberative process“, ignoring the fact that it is the government that did all these things in secret and that if not for the leaks by Snowden, we would not have even known about them.

5 comments

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  1. 1
    Chiroptera

    In a sign of how crucial the NSA considers its bulk phone records collection….

    Actually, such a defunding is probably unlikely to be approved by the Senate, so I think the issue hear isn’t just the alleged necessity of the records collection; it’s PR and propaganda, to try to prevent even the appearance that there may be widespread and bipartisan dissent on this issue.

  2. 2
    bmiller

    Who would like to be that even in the unlikely situation this passed…that Obama would find some “discretionary” funds. Or that the Black Budget which is just too super secret for anyone to even know exists…will not end up funding it anyway?

    Just like Iran Contra. Look how seriously those responsible for THAT paid the price….not.

  3. 3
    Pierce R. Butler

    … two two-hour sessions, the first for Republicans and the second for Democrats.

    Wouldn’t it be fun to compare transcripts of the two talks and count the contradictions between them?

  4. 4
    Marcus Ranum

    AAAand of course congress is going to completely ignore the will of the people. Surprise, surprise.

  5. 5
    Jeffrey Johnson

    The vote on this was very close, but it was defeated 217-205, with an unusual amount of division in both parties. Among Republicans, 94 voted for it with 134 against, while 111 Democrats voted for, and 83 voted against. Each party had 6 abstentions. At least it’s exciting to see an issue that isn’t polarized on party lines. I hope this leads to long and thorough debate.

    Here is the full tally. See how your rep voted.

    http://www.scribd.com/mobile/doc/155815805/embed?access_key=key-tr8o1hfyk7apdza4bz7

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