House to weigh legislation to limit surveillance programs
Published July 23, 2013
June 6, 2013: In this file photo National Security Agency plaques are seen at the compound at Fort Meade, Md. (AP)
The House will consider legislation that would cut off funds for the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs and impose limits on its operations.
The Rules Committee voted late Monday to allow the NSA amendments to the $598.3 billion defense bill to be voted on after the House begins consideration of the sweeping measure on Tuesday.
One amendment would bar the NSA from collecting records, including telephone call records, unless the individual is the subject of an ongoing investigation.
Another amendment prohibits funds to the NSA to target a U.S. individual or acquire and store the content of that person’s communications, including phone calls and emails.
Tea Party conservatives and liberal Democrats had pushed to include the amendments. Republicans leaders had raised concerns about any attempt to undercut anti-terrorism efforts.
The White House in June threatened to veto the House version of the bill, arguing that the legislation rejects the Pentagon’s cost-saving efforts to close domestic military bases and raise enrollment fees for health care.
Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., who sponsored the amendment that limits the government’s ability to collect information on Americans who are not connected to an investigation thanked House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, for allowing open debate on the amendments.
“I want to thank Speaker Boehner for working diligently toward resolving significant concerns over the amendment process with respect to #NSA,” Amash said in a Facebook post.
Amash said his measure would allow the NSA to collect data and records, but only if the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court said in a statement that the collection of data pertains to an individual under investigation. Otherwise, the NSA would lose its funding.
Former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden leaked documents last month that revealed that the NSA had collected phone records, while a second NSA program forced major Internet companies to turn over contents of communications to the government.
Leaders in Congress, such as Boehner and House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Mich., have strongly defended the programs, but libertarian lawmakers and liberals have expressed serious concerns about the government’s surveillance in a fierce debate over privacy and national security.
The Rules Committee also voted to allow amendments dealing with the use of funds for Syria and Egypt and the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay.
On Syria, the House will vote on a proposal from Florida Republican Rep. Trey Radel, who is seeking to block funding for military operations in Syria inconsistent with the War Powers Resolution.
The United States has been providing humanitarian assistance to the opposition seeking to overthrow the Assad government. The administration has recently taken steps to arm rebels with weapons and ammunition, a move welcomed by some in Congress but troubling to other lawmakers.
The House will also consider an amendment introduced by Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Amash that prohibits the use of funding for military or paramilitary operations in Egypt.
On Guantanamo Bay, members will vote on a proposal by Reps. Jim Moran, D-Va, and Adam Smith, D-Wash., that would permit the transfer of detainees from Guantanamo Bay to the United States or elsewhere.
A similar measure introduced by Smith allowing the transfer of detainees was rejected last month by the House Armed Services Committee.
The Associated Press and Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report.
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