Tight NSA spy vote gives hope to program critics
Privacy rights groups, others see 12-vote margin in U.S. House vote as a sign of growing opposition to domestic spy program
Computerworld - Civil rights advocates view Wednesday's narrow defeat of a bill to curtail funds for the National Security Agency's domestic spy program as a sign of the growing opposition within Congress.
The bipartisan amendment, introduced by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) and Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) and co-sponsored by 30 lawmakers, sought to cut funding for the controversial NSA program that collects data from telephone calls in the U.S.
The program was first revealed in documents leaked to reporters in June by NSA contract worker Edward Snowden, now a fugitive hiding in Russia.
The documents outline details of a program under which the NSA is collecting metadata records of phone calls made in the U.S. The collected data includes originating and dialed numbers, call times and duration, location data and calling card numbers.
Snowden's leaks of documents about the warrantless surveillance program sparked widespread privacy, civil rights and constitutional concerns among some members of Congress and others.
The Amash-Conyers amendment, introduced as part of the Defense Appropriations Act, sought to curb mass, warrantless collection of phone call records of Americans by the NSA. It would have allowed the agency to continue such data collection activity only from specific suspects in anti-terror investigations.
The proposal drew a sharp rebuke from the Obama Administration, which has insisted that the NSA's records collection activity is legal and vital to national security.
The proposed amendment was narrowly defeated by a vote of 205-217 in the House on Wednesday.
"The Amash amendment was a first step for Congress to express its opinion," said Mark Jaycox, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which has filed a lawsuit challenging the NSA program. "For such an amendment to garner support is a reassuring sign that privacy has no party and that a near-majority of Congressmen want to stop this program," he said.
Jaycox said the narrow margin of the defeat isn't surprising considering that a majority of American's think that the NSA's use of the Patriot Act to conduct domestic surveillance is "overreaching, invasive, and unconstitutional. Legislative efforts are being pushed in both houses of Congress. And success of legislative reform is sure to come off of this decisive vote and important vote."
The Center for Democracy and Technology, another of many rights groups that have filed lawsuits against the NSA, expressed similar sentiments.
In a blog post, the group expressed disappointment that the amendment was defeated, but added that the close, bipartisan vote "shows that the tide is turning in favor of restoring our fundamental privacy rights."
"This is only the beginning. As public opposition towards this troubling program grows, CDT will continue to press Congress to put an end to the blanket surveillance of millions of innocent Americans," CDT president Leslie Harris said in the post.
Jaikumar Vijayan covers data security and privacy issues, financial services security and e-voting for Computerworld. Follow Jaikumar on Twitter at @jaivijayan, or subscribe to Jaikumar's RSS feed . His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
- NSA defends collecting data from U.S. residents not suspected of terrorist activities
- Groups fear bill would allow free flow of data between private sector and NSA
- Google's move into home automation means even less privacy
- Bill to require warrant for email searches gains ground in House
- Coming soon to a fridge near you -- targeted ads
- Snowden leaks prompt tech firms to tout privacy, transparency policies
- License reader lawsuit can be heard, appeals court rules
- Is EU's 'right to be forgotten' really the 'right to edit the truth'?
- Tails 1.0: A bootable Linux distro that protects your privacy
- Privacy jitters derail controversial K-12 big data initiative
Read more about Privacy in Computerworld's Privacy Topic Center.
- Enable secure remote access to 3D data without sacrificing visual perfomance Design and manufacturing companies must adapt quickly to the demands of an increasingly global and competitive economy. To speed time to market for...
- Virtually Delivered High Performance 3D Graphics "A picture is worth a thousand words." That old phrase is as true today as it ever was. Pictures (i.e., those with heavy...
- Best Practices for Securing Hadoop Historically, Apache Hadoop has provided limited security capabilities. To protect sensitive data being stored and analyzed in Hadoop, security architects should use a...
- Top Tips for Securing Big Data Environments: Why Big Data Doesn't Have to Mean Big Security Challenges Organizations must come to terms with the security challenges they introduce. As big data environments ingest more data, organizations will face significant risks...
- What should I look for in a Next Generation Firewall? SANS Provides Guidance With so many vendors claiming to have a Next Generation Firewall (NGFW), it can be difficult to tell what makes each one different....
- Responding to New SSL Cybersecurity Threat The featured Gartner research examines current strategies to address new SSL cybersecurity threats and vulnerabilities. All Security White Papers | Webcasts
Our new bimonthly Internet of Things newsletter helps you keep pace with the rapidly evolving technologies, trends and developments related to the IoT. Subscribe now and stay up to date!