Amash skeptical of new NSA proposals

 

Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) is not ruling out pushing his amendment to end the National Security Agency’s bulk data collection, but he said he is waiting first to see how other legislative efforts play out.

Amash expressed skepticism toward the proposals released this week by the White House and House Intelligence Committee, which would end the government’s bulk collection of phone records and move it to the private sector.

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Amash told The Hill that he wants the Judiciary Committee to pass Rep. James Sensenbrenner Jr.’s (R-Wis.) “USA Freedom Act,” which goes further than the administration and Intelligence leaders to curb the NSA’s surveillance programs.

The bill from Sensenbrenner, a primary author of the 2001 Patriot Act, would stop the bulk collection of phone records and require data collection to be tied to a specific investigation.

“We don’t have enough information about the administration’s proposal to really understand where they’re going with it,” Amash said Wednesday.

“We’ve seen some of what the House Intelligence Committee has put out. … Based on what I’ve read about it, it appears to expand the NSA’s authority," he said. "It doesn’t end bulk collection but actually puts more Americans in danger of having their constitutionally protected rights violated.”

Critics of the NSA’s surveillance have said the government should be required to get a warrant before conducting searches of the phone records, which is not part of the administration’s proposal.

Last year, the House nearly passed Amash’s amendment, which would have prevented the NSA from using the Patriot Act to collect phone records of individuals who weren’t under investigation.

The vote on the Defense Appropriations bill failed, 205-217, with a coalition of libertarian-leading Republicans and a majority of Democrats backing the measure.

Amash said Wednesday that he is waiting to see what happens with Sensenbrenner’s bill before deciding whether to push his amendment once again.

“We’ll do it if we need to do it,” Amash said.

“I’d like to see comprehensive legislation like the USA Freedom Act go forward,” he said. “We are certainly willing to consider adding ideas from the Intelligence Committee, from the administration, to that legislation, but if no legislation is going to go forward to protect the rights of Americans, then I’m certainly open to offering further amendments.”

The House is expected to take up the Defense authorization bill this spring, which could be an opportunity for Amash and other NSA critics to offer their proposals.

That bill, which receives hundreds of amendments, typically is brought to the floor under a procedure that allows the Rules Committee to reject amendments.