White House: Amash trying to 'dismantle' counterterrorism tool

The White House said Tuesday that it is opposed to an amendment from Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) that would curtail the National Security Agency's (NSA) surveillance activities.

In a statement from White House press secretary Jay Carney, the White House accused Amash of trying to “to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism tools.”

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

The White House statement on Amash’s amendment is the latest in a concerted effort to defeat the measure after it was given a vote as part of the Defense Appropriations bill.

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Amash’s amendment would prevent the NSA from using the Patriot Act to collect data on individuals who are not under investigation, effectively ending the massive Internet and phone data collection programs that were revealed in news reports last month.

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander went to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to answer questions lawmakers had on the programs in a classified, members-only briefing.

The Obama administration, of course, is using the surveillance programs, so the opposition to Amash’s measure is not a surprise.

But the decision to dispatch Alexander and the White House statement for one of 100 amendments to the Defense spending bill highlights the importance the administration places on defeating the measure.

Amash’s amendment will be the first vote Congress takes on the NSA surveillance programs since they were made public last month, along with another more-limited amendment from Rep. Richard Nugent (R-Fla.) that places restrictions on collecting data of U.S. citizens.

The lobbying campaign against the amendment also extends to lawmakers who support the NSA spying as a tool to protect against terrorism.

Leaders from both the House and Senate Intelligence Committees, which oversee the NSA programs, attacked Amash’s amendment on Tuesday. And Seven House committee chairmen wrote a letter to colleagues urging a “no” vote on the measure.

Amash won a vote on his amendment after threatening to defeat the rule to the Defense Appropriations bill on the floor.

He has the support of both liberal Democrats and libertarian-leaning Republicans who have criticized the reach of the NSA surveillance.

Amash responded to the White House statement on Twitter, where he has urged his supporters to lobby their members to support his measure.

“Pres Obama opposes my #NSA amendment, but American people overwhelmingly support it,” Amash wrote. “Will your Rep stand with the WH or the Constitution?”