Wednesday, July 24, 2013

No, the House did NOT vote on an amendment to stop government spying

Today the House voted on what is being called 'the Amash amendment" to the 2014 NDAA bill. It would have eliminated funding for the NSA's collection of metadata on telephone calls.

I'd like to remind you of the best description of that program that I've seen. It comes from Mark Ambinder.
One official likened the NSA's collection authority to a van full of sealed boxes that are delivered to the agency. A court order, similar to the one revealed by the Guardian, permits the transfer of custody of the "boxes." But the NSA needs something else, a specific purpose or investigation, in order to open a particular box...

In the government's eyes, the data is simply moving from one place to another. It does not become, in the government's eyes, relevant or protected in any way unless and until it is subject to analysis. Analysis requires that second order.
To suggest that the movement of those unopened "boxes" equates to spying twists that word so far out of sight that it loses all sense of any real meaning. Opening one of those boxes to investigate its contents is spying - and that requires a warrant.

This amendment was never going to pass. Putting it up for a vote was a chance for some Democrats to wave their progressive credentials around to pacify the emos and it gave the Republican lunatic caucus a chance to take a pot shot at President Obama (who opposed the amendment). What's sad is to see some Democrats join the Republicans in their habit of taking meaningless votes.

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