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June 20, 2014 5:29 AM   Subscribe

In what early press reports call a "surprise vote" in a "late night session," the US House of Representatives voted to defund controversial NSA surveillance activities.

The vote was 293-123, with wide support from both parties. Although the bill is not yet law, the vote represents a major shift in support for NSA spying. The vote comes only weeks after passage of the USA FREEDOM Act, which was billed as spying reform but has been criticized as watered-down by civil-liberties advocates, including its initial supporters.

The vote, on an amendment to a Defense appropriations bill, cuts the funding for two NSA activities: mass surveillance of Americans under section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, and the practice of "asking hardware markers and software developers to build backdoors into their tools designed to give the agency access to users’ communications." Section 702 is believed to be the legal authority for many of NSA's most controversial activities.

A similar attempt to defund surveillance nearly passed the House last July, with many of the same Reps in support.
posted by grobstein (57 comments total) 23 users marked this as a favorite

 
That's kind of cool, but what if, instead of defunding 702 activities there were some kind of a way we could repeal 702 entirely? Who should we talk to about that?
posted by gauche at 5:34 AM on June 20 [8 favorites]


I think the reason this happened through the funding channel (rather than repealing 702 directly) is: Congressional procedure means any bill to repeal 702 goes through the House Intelligence Committee, and the Intelligence Committee remains solid for the "Intelligence Community." Maybe those winds will change.
posted by grobstein at 5:38 AM on June 20 [12 favorites]


Ah. That makes sense, in a disappointing kind of way.

I guess I'm wondering whether this step would prevent the NSA from using its discretionary funds to continue conducting 702 surveillance. It's still a good step.
posted by gauche at 5:41 AM on June 20


What's the amendment number? I'm trying to find a list of who voted each way.
posted by Greg Nog at 5:47 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


Personally I'd rather go much further with this, but at this point I'll take any tiny, fragmentary pushback on mass surveillance. When it became clear that they were vacuuming up all phone information, I'm sure a bunch of congresspeople looked at their cellphones and thought "uh oh."
posted by Dip Flash at 5:47 AM on June 20 [10 favorites]


Topping the list of things I didn't think I'd say this year, "Good Job, Congress!"
posted by leotrotsky at 5:49 AM on June 20 [16 favorites]


Good news, shame we can't get them all fired up about net neutrality. Second article says that the same goals may be achieved though via the FBI or similar agencies.
posted by arcticseal at 5:50 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


I'm kind of surprised the Republicans in the House didn't also attach language to repeal Obamacare, in order to hang Democrats as being "pro-spying-on-Americans" when they voted against it.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:53 AM on June 20 [4 favorites]


Good news, shame we can't get them all fired up about net neutrality. Second article says that the same goals may be achieved though via the FBI or similar agencies.

That's what Lessig's MAYDAY SuperPAC is for. Mefi's own Woz supports it, and so should you.
posted by leotrotsky at 5:55 AM on June 20 [10 favorites]


I'm kind of surprised the Republicans in the House didn't also attach language to repeal Obamacare, in order to hang Democrats as being "pro-spying-on-Americans" when they voted against it.

Deep down, even most of the crazies are against creating totalitarian panopticons
posted by leotrotsky at 5:56 AM on June 20 [9 favorites]


It's an especially easy sell when the opposing party is in power.
posted by Sticherbeast at 6:07 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


> Ah. That makes sense, in a disappointing kind of way.

It's a bit like taking Al Capone down for tax evasion instead of for bootlegging and murder. Use the handle you can reach.
posted by jfuller at 6:10 AM on June 20 [6 favorites]


I don't know if this is a huge thing or just a little thing

but I feel... it took *years* but here's some actual outcome. Maybe it's not so dystopian after all.
posted by rebent at 6:10 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


I'm extremely skeptical of this – I haven't looked through the links yet, but hasn't NSA funding already been locked in completely as "essential" since the 1974 Budget Act? I don't think "defense appropriations" are necessary for NSA funding. Can the House really vote to "defund" it like this? This House has a history of grandstanding, and I'm not convinced this isn't more of the same.
posted by koeselitz at 6:10 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


Alexander's children, their faces wet
posted by Venadium at 6:17 AM on June 20 [8 favorites]


J. Edgar Hoover, his eyes closed.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:19 AM on June 20 [13 favorites]


Greg: looks like H. Amdt. 935. See here. (Not sure if link works.)
posted by grobstein at 6:21 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


I expect they'll follow in the CIA's footsteps and start covertly funding their shenanigans with cocaine money.
posted by K'an at 6:41 AM on June 20 [5 favorites]


Darmok and Jalad... at Tanagra.
posted by kaibutsu at 6:42 AM on June 20 [5 favorites]


Oh yay! My beloved Carol Shea-Porter voted Aye!
posted by Greg Nog at 6:46 AM on June 20


While I'm troubled that without a regular supply of Snowdons we won't be able to monitor and resist the next thing the NSA will do, this is a big win at a time when I'd come to expect nothing good from any branch of the American government.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:46 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


Yeah, if this somehow passes the Senate (And bear in mind that after proceedings descended into an utter clusterfuck yesterday there's a very good chance the Senate will not pass new spending bills at all and just extend the current bills by a year) I fully expect the NSA to respond, "oh, yeah, we're totally not spending any of our secret budget you're not allowed to review on that program you banned! Now go away or we'll publish these e-mails to your mistress."
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 6:47 AM on June 20 [8 favorites]


Rumsfeld and Cheney, at Greenbriar.

I vote for a weekend of doing headlines this way.
posted by JoeZydeco at 6:48 AM on June 20 [13 favorites]


Surely Barack and Cheney?
posted by leotrotsky at 7:02 AM on June 20


Here's something...

The silver lining of being the party out of power is that you get to make public protest votes. Don't like Obamacare? Confirm your conservative bonafides by voting to defund it! You don't have to worry about any actual, concrete fallout from Obamacare being defunded, because it won't actually happen. It's all theater.

But, with this vote, now the Democrat-controlled Senate will have to cast the "real" vote. And of course Obama would veto such a bill anyhow.

So, now we're stuck with many Republicans leading the charge on this issue, and a significant number of Dems will wind up killing it.
posted by Sticherbeast at 7:05 AM on June 20


Interesting minor detail in the record:
6/19/2014 9:33pm:
H.AMDT.935 Amendment (A069) offered by Mr. Massie.
An amendment to prohibit use of funds by an officer or employee of the United States to query a collection of foreign intelligence information acquired under FISA using a United States person identifier except in specified instances.
6/19/2014 9:33pm:
DEBATE - Pursuant to the provisions of H. Res. 628, the Committee of the Whole proceeded with 10 minutes of debate on the Massie amendment.
6/19/2014 9:46pm:
POSTPONED PROCEEDINGS - At the conclusion of debate on the Massie amendment, the Chair put the question on adoption of the amendment and by voice vote, announced that the noes had prevailed. Mrs. Lofgren demanded a recorded vote and the Chair postponed further proceedings on the question of adoption of the amendment until later in the legislative day.
Later...
6/19/2014 10:48pm:
H.AMDT.935 On agreeing to the Massie amendment (A069) Agreed to by recorded vote: 293 - 123, 1 Present (Roll no. 327).
Either a bunch of people changed their minds over the course of the hour, or the Chair has remarkably selective hearing.

(Hyperlinks in the above have been switched from temporary to permanent ones.)
posted by Shmuel510 at 7:06 AM on June 20 [5 favorites]


THIS House did something useful?! Software patents are bogus? Did I slip timelines again?
posted by bigbigdog at 7:07 AM on June 20 [6 favorites]


Software patents was SCOTUS. Another wormhole altogether. And we're still waiting on the Aereo decision so we could be back to the luddite timeline shortly.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:13 AM on June 20


OK, but if I hear about war crimes indictments I'm going to run a full diagnostic on that transporter.
posted by bigbigdog at 7:21 AM on June 20 [7 favorites]


Shmuel510, it is my recollection from my legislative process training a few years back that one of the prerogatives of the Chair is that they get to interpret the results of a voice vote to their advantage. A motion can be made to take a roll call vote if someone's not happy with that outcome.
posted by wintermind at 7:22 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


From the Reason story:

The amendment was supported by a majority of both Democrats and Republicans, though more Republicans voted against it than Democrats.

Anybody have a link that shows how every Rep voted?
posted by bukvich at 7:25 AM on June 20


This one does.
posted by grobstein at 7:28 AM on June 20




(Aside: I have no idea why my hyperlinks to H.AMDT.935 apparently got stripped out of my last post. Maybe I mispasted something?)
posted by Shmuel510 at 7:37 AM on June 20


I am just glad we've finally hit on a convention for post titles.
posted by Zarkonnen at 7:44 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


Hannah Arendt, the banality of Darmok paraphrased
posted by y2karl at 7:53 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


the USA FREEDOM Act, which was billed as spying reform but has been criticized as watered-down by civil-liberties advocates

I'm pretty sure that's supposed to read "criticized by civil liberties advocates as watered down," but nothing would surprise me.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:59 AM on June 20


Yeah, that's what I meant, ah.
posted by grobstein at 8:02 AM on June 20


So now with nothing to feed their massive Utah data center, we're free to use it as a gaming hub or to mine bitcoins?
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:18 AM on June 20 [2 favorites]


My Congressman, a Bushite prick by the name of Patrick McHenry, voted in favor. I'm gonna call and say thanks.
posted by 4th number at 8:25 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


The incoming majority leader voted No. Isn't he supposed to be a liberty/smaller government type?
posted by Big_B at 8:47 AM on June 20


My Congressman, a Bushite prick by the name of Patrick McHenry, voted in favor. I'm gonna call and say thanks.

I'd probably leave out the 'Bushite prick' when you call.
posted by leotrotsky at 8:54 AM on June 20 [5 favorites]


Isn't he supposed to be a liberty/smaller government type?

Well it would, if those words actually meant anything. Call me unimpressed. Only Americans get privacy. No one else has any rights, and the surveillance state still has permission to break other countries' laws as much as they please.
posted by 1adam12 at 9:32 AM on June 20


Isn't the next big Snowden leak supposed to be the list of Americans spied on by the NSA? What if politicians were on the list, and got a sneak peak?
posted by Scram at 9:37 AM on June 20 [3 favorites]


Shaka, when the walls fell.
posted by starscream at 9:41 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


This Stingray business is pretty bad too, and underreported in traditional outlets.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:11 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


Thorzdad: I'm kind of surprised the Republicans in the House didn't also attach language to repeal Obamacare, in order to hang Democrats as being "pro-spying-on-Americans" when they voted against it.

That presumes that their constituency gives a damn about government surveillance, when (in fact) they can't decide whether it's an infringement of their rights or the only way to defeat the Bad Guys, so they won't give a damn, because most people want easy, black-and-white choices.

Also: tech is hard to understooding.
posted by IAmBroom at 10:35 AM on June 20






The depressing-yet-somehow-funny word I just learned is Glomar, as in, the Glomar response, where an agency refuses to confirm nor deny that FOIA-requested records exist in order to make it harder to legally challenge a refusal.
posted by JHarris at 11:38 AM on June 20 [1 favorite]


Hillary Clinton: All For Vague, Undefined Surveillance Reform, But Screw That Snowden Guy

I hope Hillary at least tries to pretend that she's really interested in real NSA reform. I haven't voted for a Republican (for any office) since 1998, but I'll vote for one for president in 2016 if the candidate is believably anti-NSA.

OTOH, if Hillary were president it'd probably be easier to get NSA reform from the Republicans in congress. I hate when that sort of bullshit makes sense.

I guess the most likely outcome will be that the Republican candidate will be strongly pro-NSA because freedom destruction is the only way to save freedom. At the same time Hillary will be pro-NSA because something something I don't know.
posted by HappyEngineer at 12:33 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]


I guess the most likely outcome will be that the Republican candidate will be strongly pro-NSA because freedom destruction is the only way to save freedom. At the same time Hillary will be pro-NSA because something something I don't know.

Not if it's Rand Paul, which (I bet) it almost certainly will be. He's seriously problematic in lots of ways, but he f*cking hates the NSA overreach.
posted by leotrotsky at 1:23 PM on June 20 [1 favorite]


President Rand Paul

*screaming heebie jeebies*
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 1:31 PM on June 20 [4 favorites]


I don't suppose there's any chance Ron Wyden could run?
posted by HappyEngineer at 1:41 PM on June 20 [2 favorites]


Ain't too easy to win the presidency if you actually oppose any significant sector of the economy.

I'd likely vote for Rand Paul, assuming he ran against some pro-NSA democrat like Hillary, although I'd prefer his father. Neither Paul could win the nomination though. Another statist like Romney will play him off the other reformers coming out of the clown car.

The president has infinitely more opportunities to obstruct the NSA than gay rights, abortion rights, etc. In theory, I'd worry about a Republican sabotaging Obamacare from the inside, but actually Paul is a medical doctor himself, which limits that risk, and he appears more forthright than that generally.

Anyways, our current surveillance state poses too serious a threat to all forms of political expression and reform, never mind Obama's drone war. And he did filibuster Brennan's appointment over Obama's drone strike program.

posted by jeffburdges at 5:34 AM on June 23 [1 favorite]




Is Rand Paul’s Silicon Valley Charm Offensive Working?
As I said, I'd vote for him unless the democrats can field someone a better record on surveillance, but there is no chance he'll win, even with Zuckerberg, etc. backing him.
posted by jeffburdges at 5:28 AM on July 17


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