Adonis Diaries

Backers of surveillance program: To battle a challenge

Posted on: July 28, 2013

Backers of surveillance program battle a challenge

The White House and congressional backers of the National  Security Agency’s surveillance program warn that ending the massive collection  of phone records from millions of Americans would put the U.S.  at risk from another terrorist attack.

Donna  Cassata published in the Lebanese daily “The Daily Star” this July 24, 2013:

WASHINGTON: With a high-stakes showdown vote looming in the House of Representatives,  White House press secretary Jay Carney issued an unusual, nighttime statement  on the eve of Wednesday’s vote. The measure by Republican Rep. Justin Amash  would end the secret program’s  authority, an action that Carney contended would “hastily dismantle one of our  intelligence community’s counterterrorism tools.”

WASHINGTON, DC - JULY 23: Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) arrives for a news conference in the Ohio Clock Corridor at the U.S. Capitol July 23, 2013 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) arrives for a news  conference in the Ohio Clock Corridor at the U.S. Capitol July 23, 2013 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images/AFP

Gen. Keith Alexander, head of the NSA, made a last-minute trip to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to urge lawmakers to reject the measure in separate, closed-door  sessions with Republicans and Democrats. Seven Republican committee chairmen  issued a similar plea in a widely circulated letter to their colleagues.

An unlikely coalition of libertarian-leaning conservatives and liberal Democrats  says the program amounts to unfettered domestic spying on Americans. Amash and Democratic Rep. John Conyers  are the chief sponsors of an  amendment that would end the ability of the NSA to collect phone records and  metadata under the USA Patriot Act  unless it identifies an  individual under investigation.

Amash said his measure tries to rein in the NSA’s blanket authority.  Responding to the White House statement, the congressman tweeted late Tuesday:  “Pres Obama opposes my #NSA amendment, but American people overwhelmingly  support it. Will your Rep stand with the WH or the Constitution?”

Republican leaders allowed the House to consider Amash’s amendment to a  $598.3 billion defense spending bill for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

The vote on Wednesday would be the first time Congress has weighed in since  former NSA systems analyst Edward Snowden  leaked documents 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.

“This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open or deliberative  process,” Carney said. “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.”

Proponents of the NSA programs argue that the surveillance operations have  been successful in thwarting potential terrorist attacks, including a 2009 plot  to strike at the New York Stock Exchange.

“This bill would basically turn off our ability to find terrorists trying to  attack us,” said Rep. C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger, the top Democrat on the  Intelligence panel.

Rep. Mike Rogers, chairman of the Intelligence committee, joined other  Republican chairmen in a letter urging lawmakers to reject the Amash  amendment.

“While many members have legitimate questions about the NSA metadata program,  including whether there are sufficient protections for Americans’ civil  liberties, eliminating this program altogether without careful deliberation  would not reflect our duty, under Article I of the Constitution, to provide for  the common defense,” the chairmen wrote.

The debate over privacy and national security has prompted calls and emails  to lawmakers, said Republican Rep. Tom Rooney, a member of the Intelligence  panel who said members of Congress are facing competing pressures.

The overall defense spending bill would provide the Pentagon with $512.5  billion for weapons, personnel, aircraft and ships plus $85.8 billion for the  war in Afghanistan for next budget year. (For how long this war on Afghanistan will siphon billions each year)

The bill is $5.1 billion below current spending and has drawn a veto threat from the White House, which argues that it would force the administration to cut  education, health research and other domestic programs to boost spending for the  Pentagon.

In a leap of faith, the bill assumes that Congress and the administration  will resolve the automatic, across-the-board spending cuts that have forced the  Pentagon to furlough workers and cut back on training. The bill projects  spending in the next fiscal year at $28.1 billion above the so-called sequester  level.

In addition to the vote on the Amash amendment, the House also will consider  an amendment prohibiting any U.S. funds for military or paramilitary operations  in Egypt and barring the administration from arming the Syrian rebels without  congressional approval.

On Tuesday the House voted to cut $79 million from the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund, reducing the amount to the current level of $200 million as  projects have been delayed. The House also endorsed the $70.2 million in the  bill to study the feasibility for an East Coast missile defense site.

($85.8 billion for the  war in Afghanistan and cutting down on the $200 million for Afghanistan infrastructure…?)

The overall bill must be reconciled with whatever measure the  Democratic-controlled Senate produces.

Read more:  http://www.dailystar.com.lb/News/International/2013/Jul-24/224838-backers-of-surveillance-program-battle-a-challenge.ashx#ixzz2ZxFyLGpE (The Daily Star :: Lebanon News ::  http://www.dailystar.com.lb)

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