White House urges House to reject Amash NSA amendment

Josh Peterson Tech Editor
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The Obama administration attempted to marshal further opposition late Tuesday night against Rep. Justin Amash’s effort to defund a portion of the National Security Agency’s embattled surveillance programs.

House members are expected to vote Wednesday on an amendment to next year’s defense appropriations bill that would defund any National Security Agency program that collects of the records of persons not subject to an international terrorism or foreign intelligence investigation.

In a statement sent out Tuesday evening, White House press secretary Jay Carney defended the administration’s various statements, speeches and disclosures responding to former NSA contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations about the agency and U.S. government’s surveillance.

Carney urged House members to reject the amendment spearheaded by Amash, a Michigan Republican and fierce civil libertarian, calling it an effort to “hastily dismantle hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism tools.”

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

“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,” said Carney.

The Hill reported that NSA director General Keith Alexander met with lawmakers on Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon in a “members-only briefing set up by the House Intelligence Committee” to lobby against Amash’s amendment.

Republican Reps. Mick Mulvaney of South Carolina and Thomas Massie of Kentucky, and Democratic Reps. John Conyers of Michigan and Jared Polis of Colorado, are co-sponsoring the Amash amendment.

The Obama administration has denied the danger of collecting vast amounts of digital information on millions of Americans, including cell-phone call records, or metadata, stating that robust oversight is in place to prevent its abuse.

The Washington Post reported Sunday that the NSA pioneered the use of cell-phone metadata to target terrorists as a battlefield tactic during the Central Intelligence Agency’s covert armed drone campaign in Afghanistan following Sept. 11, 2001.

The nation’s lead intelligence agency, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, announced Friday that the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court renewed authorization for the bulk collection of American’s phone records.

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