Can The NSA Reunite Our Feuding Congress?

Something’s terribly wrong when Michelle Bachman and President Obama are on the same side of an issue. Obama is lined up with a host of unlikely allies when it comes to the National Security Agency (NSA), leaving many defenders of civil liberties up in arms.

Most of the Democratic caucus in the House of Representatives abandoned the President today on a crucial vote about the NSA.?The issue? Legislation named the Amash Amendment, which called for the defunding of the NSA’s data mining project.

Rep. Justin Amash, R-MI, wrote the amendment–attached to the annual Defense Department spending bill–along with Rep. John Conyers, D-MI. The two men are not exactly natural bedfellows given that Amash leans libertarian and Conyers is a staunch liberal, so it goes without saying that it was not a comfortable coalition that ended up supporting the amendment in the face of opposition from the White House.

The measure’s proponents argued that the 4th Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures are at stake. This sentiment has been steadily growing since whistleblower Edward Snowden?revealed that Americans’ phone and internet records were being collected and stored, wholesale, by the NSA under the guise of preventing terrorism.

The fact that there is a groundswell of opposition to the program is evidenced by the vote. Even though the amendment was defeated, it was unexpectedly close –205-217– as well as overwhelmingly bipartisan.

Speaker of the House John Boehner came down on the side of the President in his efforts to defeat the amendment but, ultimately, 94 Republicans defied Boehner’s?leadership and voted for it. Those allying themselves with Amash’s side included one of the main authors of the Patriot Act, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, R-WI. A total of 111 Democrats also bucked their leader, President Obama.

In a statement released by Press Secretary Jay Carney, that refers to “unauthorized disclosures”,? the White House took this position:

We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.

Or, as Michelle Bachman put it:

We need to defeat the goals and aims of Islamic jihad, and for that reason I will be voting no on the Amash amendment.

Not only a significant portion of Congress, but also of the American public, are beginning to resist the idea that the vast collection of ‘metadata’ is in the best interests of the country. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-NY, who has long criticized the government’s post-9/11 anti-terrorism measures, said that the issue is far from dead.

The specific provision of the Patriot Act that’s in question is due to expire in 2015. Nadler told the New York Times:

It’s going to end–now or later. The only question is when and on what terms.

Even the pleas of defense and intelligence officials, including a letter signed by half a dozen national security officials from the George W. Bush administration, failed to dissuade those who wish to curb the unlimited access of the NSA to Americans’ lives. Now that the House vote is over, the Senate is ready to pick up the issue.

Senators Mark Udall, D-CO, and Ron Wyden, D-OR, have pledged to lead the charge. After the amendment was defeated, Udall said :

National security is of paramount importance, yet the N.S.A.’s dragnet collection of Americans? phone records violates innocent Americans? privacy rights and should not continue as its exists today. The U.S. House of Representatives? bipartisan vote today should be a wake-up call for the White House.

It should be. It should also be an unavoidable one as the clamor from all sides builds to a deafening pitch.

Edited and published by Jeromie Williams.

I'm a lifelong liberal, a social/political activist, a writer and blogger. I've been through many incarnations, including 20 years as a psychotherapist and 10 years as an astrologer. However, writing and social justice have always been my passions. That's the way I was raised: much thanks, Dad! I look forward to many more transformations as life goes on. For more, please join me on Facebook. or Twitter @thepolitcali_1