The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO


July 29, 2013

Other Views: Battle of secrets not over

— Pre-9/11, most Americans would have been horrified to learn that their government was vacuuming up and filing away their phone records — who they called and how long they talked — and listening in on those phone calls that caught the spy agency’s attention.

It is safe to say that opposition to government eavesdropping unconnected to law enforcement and specific threats to national security was widespread and that many of those opponents thought it was, in fact, unconstitutional. Congress’ complacency was shattered — and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper forced to acknowledge that he intentionally misled the lawmakers — when a very junior NSA contractor based in Hawaii, Edward Snowden, disclosed that the agency was not only collecting records of hundreds of millions of calls, but also snooping on Internet usage here and around the world.

Wednesday, in Congress’ first chance to vote on legislation affecting that eavesdropping since the program’s disclosure, the House showed that it has become increasingly wary about the seemingly unchecked scope of the program.

The Obama administration and the Bush administration had cited its authority as the USA Patriot Act, which has been reauthorized and broadened by both presidents. But one of the co-authors of the 2001 act, Rep. James Sensenbrenner, R-Wis., said, “The time has come to stop it.”

On Wednesday two of the strangest coalitions ever to come together in the House tangled over legislation to rein in NSA’s surveillance program.

An amendment to the defense bill by brash Republican upstart Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., 33, who regularly votes against the GOP’s establishment leadership, and Rep. John Conyers, 84, a pillar of the liberal Democratic establishment, would have barred the NSA from collecting the phone records of individuals who are not under investigation.

They were backed by an assortment of libertarians, anti-big government Tea Partiers and liberal Democrats. They were opposed by President Barack Obama, House Speaker John Boehner, who usually doesn’t vote, Democratic former Speaker Nancy Pelosi and the national intelligence establishment.

The final vote to save the program, 217 to 205, reflected Congress’ deep ambivalence over it. Opposing the program were 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats; favoring it were 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats.

Amash vows the battle isn’t over, and he may be right. Congress may get a second crack at it if Obama carries through with a threat to veto the entire $598.3 billion defense bill over issues unrelated to the eavesdropping.

— Scripps Howard News Service

Text Only
Local News
Twitter Updates
Follow us on twitter

Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon said Tuesday that a tax cut approved by the Legislature could have a “cataclysmic” effect on state revenues to the tune of $4.8 billion. House Majority Leader John Diehl calls that “absurd.” Who do you believe?

A. Nixon
B. Diehl
     View Results
NDN Video
Bon Jovi Helps Open Low-income Housing in Philly Pipeline Opponents Protest on National Mall Hagel Gets Preview of New High-tech Projects S.C. Man Apologizes for Naked Walk in Wal-Mart New Country Music Hall of Fame Inductees Named 'Piles' of Bodies in South Sudan Slaughter New Yorkers Celebrate Cherry Blossom Blooms SCOTUS Hears Tv-over-Internet Case Justice Dept. Broadening Criteria for Clemency Chief Mate: Crew Told to Escape After Passengers 'Miss Meadows' Takes Holmes Back to Her Roots Biden: Russia Must Stop Talking, Start Acting David Moyes Out As Manchester United Manager Raw: Leopard Bites Man in India Iowa College Finds Beauty in Bulldogs High Court to Hear Dispute of TV Over Internet Stowaway Teen Forces Review of Airport Security