There’s good news and bad news about NSA spying in Congress. The good news is that a coalition of liberal Democrats and conservative Republicans came together in the House of Representatives and nearly passed a measure that would have pulled the plug on the NSA’s mass surveillance programs The bad news is that the leaders of both parties got together and conspired to stop such efforts to reign in the NSA.
Tea Party member Justin Amash (R-Michigan) and veteran Democrat John Conyers Jr. (D-Michigan) co-sponsored an amendment to a defense appropriations bill that would have cut off funding to NSA programs that gather data about Americans’ phone use. Data that Storyleak has found can be used to track your location and just about everything else you do. The amendment failed by just 12 votes on Wednesday; 205 members of the House of Representatives supported it while 217 members of the House voted no.
Leadership Cooperates to Trample Our Rights
The problem is that the House leadership of both parties got together to kill the bill. The vote also demonstrated the blatant hypocrisy of some Republicans who claim to believe in freedom and small government. Its opponents included Tea Party favorite Michele Bachmann (R-Minnesota). Another opponent was Peter King (R-New York), the Chairman of the House’s Homeland Security Committee. King thinks that all Muslims are terrorists.
What’s even more interesting is that a majority of the Democrats in the house voted for the amendment. A slim majority of Republicans voted against it, with Speaker John Boehner coming to the defense of the White House. That ends the myth that Boehner and Obama cannot work together; they can, but only when it involves trampling the rights of average Americans. For the record, 94 Republicans and 11 Democrats voted to kill the NSA surveillance programs. Eighty-three Democrats and 134 Republicans voted to keep them in operation.
Although, as The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald pointed out, every member of the House Democratic leadership voted against the Amash/Conyers amendment. Nancy Pelosi and her stooges labeled the measure a “bill to protect the terrorists.” The supposedly liberal Democrats found themselves siding with right-wing Republicans like Peter King.
End of Surveillance in Sight
It looks like Congressional support for blanket NSA surveillance is collapsing even if President Obama still thinks it is a wonderful idea. There’s no way either Pelosi or Boehner can keep a lid on this opposition.
It’s also interesting to note that the U.S. media largely ignored the fact that Congress almost shut down the NSA surveillance programs. Another development our media missed is how deeply divided our political parties are on this issue. It looks like there is a grass roots majority in each party firmly against mass surveillance efforts.
Unfortunately, there’s a tiny minority that rabidly supports this surveillance, and it has control of the Democratic Party. It’ll be interesting to see if the majority can overcome the support for surveillance.
The political battle over surveillance is far from over. It has just begun even if the mainstream media doesn’t see it happening yet.