Jonathan Weisman's lead story in Monday's New York Times reports that as many as 61 of the 83 Democratic members of the House who voted against the Amash-Conyers NSA Surveillance bill on Wednesday have become "discontent" with their positions on the matter.
The article indicates that this has led to an "increasingly unified" House Democratic Caucus to emerge over the weekend in support of a bipartisan effort, led by Republican Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner and Democratic Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren to begin "...work on legislation in the House Judiciary Committee to significantly rein in N.S.A. telephone surveillance. Mr. Sensenbrenner said on Friday that he would have a bill ready when Congress returned from its August recess that would restrict phone surveillance to only those named as targets of a federal terrorism investigation, make significant changes to the secret court that oversees such programs and give businesses like Microsoft and Google permission to reveal their dealings before that court."
Momentum Builds Against N.S.A. Surveillance
New York Times
July 29, 2013 (Page A1)
…what began on the political fringes only a week ago has built a momentum that even critics say may be unstoppable, drawing support from Republican and Democratic leaders, attracting moderates in both parties and pulling in some of the most respected voices on national security in the House.
The rapidly shifting politics were reflected clearly in the House on Wednesday, when a plan to defund the National Security Agency’s telephone data collection program fell just seven votes short of passage. Now, after initially signaling that they were comfortable with the scope of the N.S.A.’s collection of Americans’ phone and Internet activities, but not their content, revealed last month by Edward J. Snowden, lawmakers are showing an increasing willingness to use legislation to curb those actions...
...“There is a growing sense that things have really gone a-kilter here,” Ms. Lofgren said.
The sudden reconsideration of post-Sept. 11 counterterrorism policy has taken much of Washington by surprise. As the revelations by Mr. Snowden, a former N.S.A. contractor, were gaining attention in the news media, the White House and leaders in both parties stood united behind the programs he had unmasked. They were focused mostly on bringing the leaker to justice.
Backers of sweeping surveillance powers now say they recognize that changes are likely, and they are taking steps to make sure they maintain control over the extent of any revisions...
The general sentiments of many representatives from both parties on Capitol Hill were reflected in the story within Weisman's statement that: "... their votes to restrain the N.S.A. reflect a gut-level concern among voters about personal privacy."
The Times reported that Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Democratic Minority Whip Steny Hoyer hurriedly delivered a letter to the President on Friday, "...warning that even those Democrats who had stayed with him on the issue on Wednesday would be seeking changes."
Readers are informed that the letter included the signature of Congressman John Conyers, "...who is rallying an increasingly unified Democratic caucus to his side, as well as 61 House Democrats who voted no on Wednesday but are now publicly signaling their discontent."
“Although some of us voted for and others against the amendment, we all agree that there are lingering questions and concerns about the current” data collection program, the letter stated...The well-balanced article provided many words of caution to its readers, including the reality that both Sensenbrenner and Lofgren "...were willing to work with the House and Senate intelligence panels to overhaul the surveillance programs, but indicated that they did not believe those panels were ready to go far enough."
I'm not going to discuss how "wonderful" this is, but at least it's a start. A hopeful sign. There's still the Senate and the White House to contend with, and they're not exactly champing at the bit to put a saddle on our surveillance state, no matter what placating public comments and kabuki we might read, hear and see to the contrary.
“I would just hope the Intelligence Committees will not stick their heads in the sand on this,” Mr. Sensenbrenner said.
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