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An activist from the Internet Party of Ukraine participates during a rally supporting Edward Snowden, a former contractor at the National Security Agency (NSA), in front of U.S. embassy, in Kiev June 27, 2013. Former U.S. spy agency contractor Snowden was believed to still be at a Moscow airport on Thursday and officials said he had not booked a flight out despite pressure from Russian President Vladimir Putin to leave. REUTERS/Gleb Garanich  (UKRAINE - Tags: CIVIL UNREST) - RTX112TB
On Thursday, the House very narrowly defeated the amendment by Reps. Justin Amash (R-MI) and John Conyers (D-MI) to scale back the NSA's surveillance power to the letter of the Patriot Act law. The final vote was 205-217. The amendment was shepherded to the floor by leadership, reportedly, because of a groundswell of Republican lawmakers who demanded the vote. Ninety-four Republicans supported the amendment, along with 111 Democrats.

Among those Republicans was Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI), who was a primary author of the Patriot Act who said that the NSA's dragnet surveillance—allowed by the secret interpretation of Section 215 by the FISA court—goes far beyond the intent of his law, and that his bill was never intended to allow for the mass collection of data from every American. "The time has come to stop it," he said in floor debate.

The vote came the same day that co-chairs of the 9/11 Commission, Thomas Keen and Lee Hamilton argued in an op-ed in Politico that "It's time to debate the NSA program."

When the Congress and the courts work in secret; when massive amounts of data are collected from Americans and enterprises; when government’s power of intrusion into the lives of ordinary citizens, augmented by the awesome power of advanced technologies, is hugely expanded without public debate or discussion over seven years, then our sense of constitutional process and accountability is deeply offended.

Officials insist that the right balance has been struck between security and privacy. But how would we know, when all the decisions have been made in secret, with almost no oversight? [...]

President Barack Obama has rightly called for a national discussion, which his administration and Congress should convene. It is unfortunate that this conversation begins only when an unauthorized leaker divulges secrets he has agreed, under penalty of law, to keep. But the issues are now before the public. It is time to trust the American people’s judgment about where to strike the balance between what is, after all, their security and their freedom.

The vote also came on a day when new polling from NBC News/Wall Street Journal showed that a strong majority of voters—56 percent—say that "they're more worried the United States will go too far in violating privacy rights" than that the U.S. "wouldn't go far enough to pursue potential terrorists." The shift in public opinion is seen in the shift among members of Congress.

The vote in the House Thursday should be considered the opening of the debate President Obama has said he would welcome. Indeed, an open, public debate might be the thing that's needed to maintain this program. Sensenbrenner has warned that the program won't be renewed in 2015 without changes. The administration might want to bet that he'll forget that threat by the time the Patriot Act is up for renewal, but this vote suggests that would be a false hope.

Sign our petition urging Congress to declassify the FISA Court’s rulings.

Originally posted to Joan McCarter on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 10:50 AM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip Jar (49+ / 0-)

    "The NSA’s capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything. [...] There would be no place to hide."--Frank Church

    by Joan McCarter on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 10:50:21 AM PDT

  •  I was surprised at the close vote. (8+ / 0-)

    It was a good thing.  This appears to be the first real close vote (was FISA in 08 close?) since the Patriot Act.

    If a Republican is elected in 2016, do you think Rs would vote the same.  That probabaly works both ways -- some Dems may have supported this if Bush were president.

    I hope the suits get to the sct.  Could be interesting.

    Join us on the Black Kos front porch to review news and views written from a black pov—everyone is welcome.

    by TomP on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 10:56:06 AM PDT

  •  this is the moment where GOP libertarianism (11+ / 0-)

    can be an ally with the Democrats to regain citizen control over the Security State and the MIC. It's not about "balance" it's always about control

    It is time to trust the American people’s judgment about where to strike the balance between what is, after all, their security and their freedom.

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 10:58:31 AM PDT

    •  I don't mind getting in bed with the... (13+ / 0-)

      ...libertarian wing of the GOP in the context of defending the 4th Amendment.

      It makes for strange bedfellows but so be it.

      It became clear to me at NN where the status quo wing of the Democratic party stood when Nancy Pelosi spoke.

      Daily Kos an oasis of truth. Truth that leads to action.

      by Shockwave on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 11:37:24 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I agree, and am very disappointed that between (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dallasdoc

        the supposedly "small-government" Republicans and the supposedly civil rights-inclined Democrats, there weren't enough votes to pass the amendment.

        The bulk collection of this kind of information on their own citizens, is something I would expect from the governments in North Korea or Iran, not the US, and there's no excuse for it.

        The founding fathers aren't just rolling in their graves, they're doing about 500 RPM.

      •  Agreed. We'll have to (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dallasdoc, Shockwave

        . . . team up with them if we're to have any hope of reining in the security state. But right now the bottom line is that the votes aren't there. The Democratic leadership has completely abdicated on the issue of civil liberty, thus ceding the argument to the right-wing "libertarians" - who are a minority within the Republican Party but whom the party is happy to use cynically for window dressing in order to brand themselves as the party of "individual liberty". The Democrats stopped defending civil liberty about 20-21 years ago, after learning the hard way over & over again that it's a political loser. They're too scared of being labeled "soft on crime", "soft on drugs", & now "soft on terrorism".

    •  Yes. (9+ / 0-)

      From today's Guardian, Greenwald's post.

       

      ...Conyers repeatedly stood to denounce the NSA program as illegal, unconstitutional and extremist. Manhattan's Jerry Nadler said that "no administration should be permitted to operate beyond the law, as they've been doing". Newly elected Democrat Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, an Iraq War combat veteran considered a rising star in her party, said that she could not in good conscience take a single dollar from taxpayers to fund programs that infringe on exactly those constitutional rights our troops (such as herself) have risked their lives for; she told me after the vote, by Twitter direct message, that the "battle [was] lost today but war not over. We will continue to press on this issue."

      In between these denunciations of the Obama NSA from House liberals, some of the most conservative members of the House stood to read from the Fourth Amendment. Perhaps the most amazing moment came when GOP Rep. James Sensenbrenner - the prime author of the Patriot Act back in 2001 and a long-time defender of War on Terror policies under both Bush and Obama - stood up to say that the NSA's domestic bulk spying far exceeds the bounds of the law he wrote as well as his belief in the proper limits of domestic surveillance, and announced his support for Amash/Conyers. ...
      ...
      To say that there is a major sea change underway - not just in terms of surveillance policy but broader issues of secrecy, trust in national security institutions, and civil liberties - is to state the obvious. But perhaps the most significant and enduring change will be the erosion of the trite, tired prism of partisan simplicity through which American politics has been understood over the last decade. What one sees in this debate is not Democrat v. Republican or left v. right. One sees authoritarianism v. individualism, fealty to The National Security State v. a belief in the need to constrain and check it, insider Washington loyalty v. outsider independence. ...

      •  Democrats are losing their excuse (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        greenbell, midwesterner, barleystraw

        For decades, as Greenwald notes, Democrats have been fearful of being labeled "soft" on crime, terrorism, etc.  It goes further back than that, since McCarthy began the Republican effort to brand Democrats as soft on communism.

        Republicans are not united in doing this anymore.  Libertarian Republicans are in full-throated cry, just as civil libertarians on the left are.  The bed-wetters and security-industrial complex tools are starting to lose the argument in both parties.  Democrats, in particular, have little excuse for supporting comprehensive domestic surveillance, when their opponents are no longer united in their eagerness to make our party pay for a civil libertarian stance.

        Obama's on the wrong side of this one, and his stance will tar the Democrats with the inevitable scandal further NSA revelations will cause.  Maybe that's good:  the chance to attack a pro-NSA Democratic administration will keep the libertarian Republicans on our side.  The Fourth Amendment is bigger than any president, bigger even than any party.

        We have always been at war with al Qaeda.

        by Dallasdoc on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 07:07:11 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Sen. Wyden: seize this moment (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dallasdoc, midwesterner

      or we'll deeply regret missing the chance—full speech here:

      Senator Ron Wyden on Domestic Data Collection and Privacy Rights, Center for American Progress, July 23, 2013

      Government and laws are the agreement we all make to secure everyone's freedom.

      by Simplify on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 06:17:25 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  This coalition should press on... (14+ / 0-)

    They got within striking distance in spite of being ignored or demonized by MSM, pressured by the WH and both parties' leaders and spooked by the NSA chief in private meeting.

    All that adversity and they almost won.
    They should press onward, focusing on the democrats who voted "no" and bring their sorry f'ing asses to heel.

    They're politicians, enough pressure and they'll get in line.
    Start with Schakowski, Tim Ryan and Rep. Castro.

  •  The government welcomes you to have their debate (5+ / 0-)

    Should we collect some of the data, or ALL of it?

    Take your time.

    /snark

    I don't blame Christians. I blame Stupid. Which sadly is a much more popular religion these days.

    by detroitmechworks on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 11:03:16 AM PDT

  •  They will have to stand up against (6+ / 0-)

    the security coalition of Bachman and Obama.

  •  Lessons from modern "democracy" (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Shahryar, maryabein, shopkeeper

    "Led the fight" means "lost the fight".  It's usually a designated role.

    "Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel" ~Dr. Samuel Johnson

    by ActivistGuy on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 11:07:57 AM PDT

  •  OK, then look at Senate pushing (12+ / 0-)

    by voice vote, to punish any country that helps Snowden.  Snowden was the lance to the NSA boil; many of us would still be categorized as conspiracy theorists by asserting what the leaks have, in fact, told us. I am disgusted by this Administration, any D that chooses "safety" over our Constitution and Bill of Rights, and especially our lamestream media that chooses to hide behind the "skirts" of the powerful rather than winnowing out what is really happening.

  •  Question about front page (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Tool, paz3, greenbell, barleystraw

    Joan is a front-page diarist, but her excellent diaries on the NSA haven't been appearing on the front page on my end of things.

    How does that work exactly? Is there an editor who approves/disapproves?

    "Yes We Can!" -- Barack Obama

    by Sucker Politics on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 11:12:57 AM PDT

  •  NSA overreach no different than the knee-jerk... (5+ / 0-)

    reaction to Shoe Bomber, Richard Reid, in
    December 2001 .

    ONE (1) terrorist's FAILED attempt to explode shoe
    bomb while in flight causes EVERYONE to have to have
    their shoes inspected.

    Now, TWELVE (12) years later, no reports of another
    shoe bomber being stopped by security.

    Doe the NSA have probable cause to build and maintain
    its meta database, considering ALL US communications
    users as suspected terrorists?

    Do we still have probable cause to suspect all US air
    travelers as suspected terrorists?

    It's time for the hysteria to end!

    *Austerity is the opposite of Prosperity*

    by josmndsn on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 11:15:27 AM PDT

    •  and more people paid $27K a year to feel us up (5+ / 0-)
      ONE (1) terrorist's FAILED attempt to explode shoe
      bomb while in flight causes EVERYONE to have to have
      their shoes inspected.

      Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

      by annieli on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 11:19:07 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Airport screeners ... (3+ / 0-)

        Shortly after TSA came into being, I fired a young man for
        being unproductive and not attending to his assigned duties.

        I told this young man there was a better opportunity for his
        skills elsewhere.

        A few months later, I went to the airport to fly to a business meeting
        and the young man was now a Transportation Security Officer.

        He was at the machine scanning carry-ons. We acknowledged
        each other with rather pleasant glances.  I went on to my boarding
        gate thinking to myself, "Yes, (really?) he found a job suitable to
        his skills."

        I never received a prior employment reference call or letter on him
        from TSA.  

        I haven't flown since then. ;)

        *Austerity is the opposite of Prosperity*

        by josmndsn on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 11:37:22 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Hear hear! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    josmndsn, Tool, midwesterner

    The world did not end because of teh narrow defeat of an amendment few if anyone had heard of just three days ago. That was just the first attempt at some sort of reform. And it was a workaround patch which left teh underlying bad law unaltered. True reform of the Patriot Act will come around in the form of ... wait for it ... direct reform of the Patriot Act.

    American public opinion has shifted considerably since the sneak attack of 9/11. The public panic left in the wake of 9/11 has faded and today public opinion supports reform. America is not doomed as so many here are quick to conclude. She has been down this road before and she will be down it again. History is full of three steps forward, two steps back. But bit by bit the overall arc of history is thatod progress.

    Today is July 25th 2013. It has been 11 years, 10 months, and 14 days since the sneak attack of 9/11.

    On June 9th, 1954 Joseph Welch spoke these words in Senate testimony to Sen McCarthy:

    Senator, may we not drop this? We know he belonged to the Lawyers Guild. Let us not assassinate this lad further, Senator. You've done enough. Have you no sense of decency, sir? At long last, have you left no sense of decency?
    That day was 12 years, 6 months, and 2 days after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor.

    The panic fever broke then and it is breaking today. We are not doomed. We will build upon the work of our parents and grandparents, and our grandchildren will find a way to work past the inevitable fever which will one day grasp them.

    And so it goes.

  •  Much hope expressed in Guardian's post-Vote (5+ / 0-)
  •  36+ votes to repeal Obamacare (0+ / 0-)

    So if the Bubble thinks this is the last of it....

    I want 1 less Tiny Coffin, Why Don't You? Support The President's Gun Violence Plan.

    by JML9999 on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 11:45:01 AM PDT

  •  Pelosi finds Weiner's weiner "reprehensible." (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Mr Robert

    She's reprehensible. She voted for more spying, of course.

    Taking impeachment of the table was reprehensible.
    Her presence in Congress is reprehensible.

  •  Thank you, Joan. (0+ / 0-)

    Happy whenever I see evidence that some FP contributors actually give two shits.

    Refusing to resist = choosing to collaborate. Please give two shits.

    by WisePiper on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 06:14:17 PM PDT

  •  "Balance"?! (0+ / 0-)

    Privacy is security. It's "The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects".

    Mass spying is necessary infrastructure for the kinds of governments that kill more people than terrorists ever will. Governments should be deprived of that foundation to ensure they never are tempted to build on top of it.

    Freedom isn't free. Patriots pay taxes.

    by Dogs are fuzzy on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 06:24:02 PM PDT

  •  actually the Patriot Act was originally... (0+ / 0-)

    ...co-written by Professor John Yoo--creator of the Yoo Doctrine under Bush who nullified the Geneva Conventions General Article III, Nuremberg Principles, and the 1996 War Crimes Act on torture--and ex-US Assistant Attorney General Viet Dinh (2001-2003).

    Rep. Sensenbrenner should be very careful for grabbing credit for something so insidious as this intrument bordering on waging total war on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the treachery that the Patriot Act embodies and codifies under the color of law. General Washington didn't have to have a house fall on his head to know police state or despotism. If he were alive today he would hang such rabble as Yoo and Dinh for a lot less than this bloodless coup d'etat. And Bush/Cheney would both be on their hands and knees begging for the merciful punishment of impeachment.

    "I wish to have no connection with any ship that does not sail fast, for I intend to go in harm's way." John Paul Jones

    by ImpeachKingBushII on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 06:37:07 PM PDT

  •  According to Pew... (0+ / 0-)

    only 48% of eligible Latino voters went to the polls.  Compared to 67% of Blacks, and 64% of Whites.

    They seem to desire a path to citizenship, yet resist being citizens.

    Cause he gets up in the morning, And he goes to work at nine, And he comes back home at five-thirty, Gets the same train every time.

    by Keith930 on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 06:58:22 PM PDT

  •  Excellent commentary from al Jazeera English (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    greenbell

    American Liberalism and the national securitiy state

    It articulates well the feelings of many of us on the left who are not part of the political class. The entire article is well worth a read, but this is the part that really nails it.

    For Obama secrecy is vital since his entire presidency has rested on saying one thing and doing another; on liberal rhetoric and imperial actions. At root, his foreign policy still relies on "keeping Americans safe" from the menacing Islamic terrorist threat.

    At the end of the day, as the great historian Richard Hofstadter teaches us in The American Political Tradition there are very few substantive differences between the main political parties. While they "differ, sometimes bitterly, over current issues…they also share a general framework of ideas". This "range of ideas…is limited by the climate of opinion that sustains their culture".

    Creating this "climate of opinion" is the responsibility of brave citizens and legislators.

    It's high time that we ALL raise our voices on this matter.
  •  Excellent commentary from al Jazeera English. (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    barleystraw

    American Liberalism and the national security state

    This articulates well the feelings of many of us on the left who are outside of America's political class.

    The entire article is worth a read, but this is the part that really nails it.

    For Obama secrecy is vital since his entire presidency has rested on saying one thing and doing another; on liberal rhetoric and imperial actions. At root, his foreign policy still relies on "keeping Americans safe" from the menacing Islamic terrorist threat.

    At the end of the day, as the great historian Richard Hofstradter teaches us in The American Political Tradition there are very few substantive differences between the main political parties. While they "differ, sometimes bitterly, over current issues…they also share a general framework of ideas". This "range of ideas…is limited by the climate of opinion that sustains their culture".

    Creating this "climate of opinion" is the responsibility of brave citizens and legislators.

    It's high time that we ALL raise our voices on this matter.
  •  It must have been a weird poll (0+ / 0-)

    or something odd is going on--when the numbers on the NSA surveillance were more, um, in favor of it, the percentage thinking Snowden was a hero was much higher.

    Now, the numbers of people who think the NSA is wrong are up--and the numbers of people who approve of Snowden are way down.

    It's very weird, like a see-saw. I wonder what the explanation is?

    Ou sont les neigedens d'antan?

    by SouthernLiberalinMD on Thu Jul 25, 2013 at 08:36:09 PM PDT

    •  here's my two cents (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SouthernLiberalinMD

      I think the key metric is the unfavorability rating because it's harder to impress people than it is to lose their respect.

      Repect must be earned over time by building up a track record. That record is fragile and can be undermined and broken with one or two acts that betray character flaws and other undesirable characteristics.

      Therefore, I think the negative rating for relatively unknown people has more inertia than the favorable rating.

      according to a two day old NBC news poll

      Obama's unfavorable rating (40) in the poll is higher than the unfavorable ratings of everyone else including:
      * Snowden (35)
      * Zimmerman (39)
      * Boehner (36)
      * George W Bush (39)

      Note also that Snowden's unfavorable rating is drastically lower than that of Congress (83)

      I think Snowden is doing very well.

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