2013 07 24 LAT The NSA surveillance driftnet can continue — for now – latimes.com


The NSA surveillance driftnet can continue — for now

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) comments Wednesday about the vote on his failed proposal to bar funding for the National Security Agency’s program that systematically collects U.S. phone records. The amendment narrowly lost. (J. Scott Applewhite / Associated Press / July 24, 2013)

By Jon Healey

July 24, 2013, 5:59 p.m.

An unusually bipartisan majority in the House of Representatives turned back a proposal Wednesday to stop the federal government from systematically gathering telecommunications metadata — that is, a record for each phone line of the numbers dialed, incoming calls received and call duration.

That wasn’t surprising, given the objections voiced by top national security officials and President Obama himself. What was surprising is how close the vote was: 217 to 205, with a majority of Democrats in favor (111 out of 194 voting), along with more than 40% of the Republicans (94 out of 228 voting).

The amendment by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) would have barred federal agencies from obtaining orders from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to require businesses to disclose records about their customers’ activities unless those records pertained to a specific person under investigation for foreign intelligence activities. That restriction was designed to stop the National Security Agency from continuing to hoover up phone metadata.

Amash, who is aligned with the tea party, led the push for the amendment along with liberal Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.).

Supporters of the government’s position — including the House GOP leadership, which nonetheless reportedly helped Amash craft his amendment