By Jennifer Martinez and Brendan Sasso - 07/23/13 10:55 PM EDT
THE LEDE: The House is expected to vote on an amendment to the 2014 Defense Department spending bill on Wednesday that would limit a National Security Agency surveillance program that collects phone records of people in the U.S.
The amendment, authored by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.), would prevent the NSA from using the Patriot Act to collect communications records of people who are not under investigation. The amendment boasts a bipartisan group of co-sponsors, including Reps. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) and Thomas Massie (R-Ky.).
A spokesman for Amash expressed optimism that the amendment will garner enough votes to be adopted to the spending bill.
The government can seize business records if they are deemed "relevant" to a terrorism investigation under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. Documents leaked by former government contractor Edward Snowden revealed that the NSA had used that authority to collect records on virtually all U.S. phone calls. That data included the numbers that people called and the duration of those calls, but not the content of their conversations.
Amash's amendment faced headwinds on Tuesday as opponents mobilized to rally 'no' votes for the proposed change. The House Intelligence Committee tapped NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander to come to the Hill and participate in two separate briefings for House Republicans and Democrats about the surveillance programs.
Amash received the notice about the Intelligence Committee's briefing late Monday, after the House Rules Committee decided to allow consideration of his amendment on the floor, according to Adams.
Rogers rallies opposition: House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) is frantically lobbying his colleagues to defeat Amash's amendment.
Rogers and six other House leaders sent a "Dear Colleague" letter late on Tuesday opposing the measure.
"While many Members have legitimate questions about the NSA metadata program, including whether there are sufficient protections for Americans' civil liberties, eliminating this program altogether without careful deliberation would not reflect our duty, under Article I of the Constitution, to provide for the common defense," the leaders wrote.
The letter was signed by the chairmen of the committees on Intelligence, Appropriations, Armed Services, Judiciary, Homeland Security and Foreign Affairs, and the Appropriations subcommittee on Defense.
Rogers also released a joint statement with Intelligence Committee ranking member Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.) that said the amendment would "undermine a valuable collection tool" and make the country more vulnerable to terrorist attacks.
"The collection tool has been integral in preventing multiple terrorist attacks, including a plot to attack the New York Stock Exchange in 2009," Rogers and Ruppersberger said. "If enacted, this amendment would have an immediate — and potentially fatal — operational impact and make America more vulnerable to terrorist attacks."
Their counterparts on the Senate Intelligence Committee also issued a statement of opposition to Amash's amendment, calling it "unwise."
Rogers also took to Twitter to defend the NSA's surveillance program and collection of phone records.
"Sec 215 [of the Patriot Act] helped thwart numerous terror plots against US & allies. Clearly saved American lives. Defunding to make political point is reckless," Rogers tweeted.
But the amendment got an endorsement from a Washington digital rights group on Tuesday.
The Center for Democracy and Technology, a civil society group that advocates for Internet freedom, voiced support for the amendment and said it would ensure the Patriot Act is used in the way Congress had originally intended.
"The Amash-Conyers Amendment allows the NSA to collect essential information for investigations to protect our country, but rejects the over-reaching and unconstitutional ‘collect everything’ approach,” Greg Nojeim, director of the Center's project on freedom, security and technology, said in a statement. “This is a test vote and the stakes are high: If the amendment passes, NSA will know that if it doesn’t end the program, Congress probably will."
Dodd briefs freshman House members: Former Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), head of the Motion Picture Association of America, discussed issues that are key to the TV and film industry on Tuesday during a briefing with House freshman members. In particular, he discussed the important role copyright protection has on innovation across the industry, the options people have to watch movies and TV shows online legally and how the industry supports jobs and wages across the country, among other issues, according to a person familiar with the meeting.
The briefing was hosted by Reps. Richard Hudson (R-N.C.), George Holding (R-N.C.), John Delaney (D-Md.) and Jared Huffman (D-Calif.).
Sprint calls for auction limits: No representative from Sprint testified at Tuesday's House hearing on the Federal Communications Commission's upcoming spectrum auction, but the company issued a statement largely siding with the testimony from T-Mobile.
"Sprint agrees with the witnesses asserting that reasonable limits on spectrum aggregation — especially the low-band spectrum essential to enduring wireless competition — will bring more carriers to the auction resulting in more aggressive bidding, more spectrum being offered and higher auction revenue to help fund broadcaster repacking and the public safety wireless broadband network," the company said. "Consumers will lose the benefits of robust wireless competition if the two largest carriers – which together already hold about 80 percent of the available low-band spectrum and 80 percent of wireless industry revenue — use their market power to foreclose competitive carriers from obtaining 600 MHz spectrum."
The House Energy and Commerce Committee will host a breakfast roundtable discussion to discuss opportunities for women in science and technology fields. Panelists will include representatives from IBM, Facebook, Microsoft and Google.
IN CASE YOU MISSED IT
Alexander lobbies against NSA cuts: Gen. Keith Alexander, director of the National Security Agency, went to Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon to participate in a House members-only briefing on the spy agency's surveillance programs as the lower chamber is set to vote on an amendment that would limit one of them.
Wyden warns data collection under Patriot Act is 'limitless': Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Tuesday urged the United States to revamp its surveillance laws and practices, warning that the country will "live to regret it" if it fails to do so.
"If we do not seize this unique moment in our constitutional history to reform our surveillance laws and practices, we will all live to regret it," Wyden said during a keynote address on the National Security Agency's data collection programs hosted by the Center for American Progress Action Fund.
Senate Intel leaders slam anti-NSA measure: The heads of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday criticized a House amendment targeting funding for the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.
Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and ranking member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) issued a joint statement Tuesday that called the amendment from Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) “unwise.”
Tech giants put millions into lobbying: The giants of the tech industry are buttressing their campaign for immigration reform with a lobbying blitz inside the Beltway.
Facebook spent just over $1 million on lobbying during the second quarter of 2013, a 10-percent rise over the same period in 2012, public records show.
AT&T, T-Mobile spar over auction: Officials from AT&T and T-Mobile offered competing plans on Tuesday for how the Federal Communications Commission should structure its auction of spectrum licenses.
Blumenthal backs a la carte bill: Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) has signed on as a co-sponsor of Sen. John McCain's (R-Ariz.) bill that would pressure cable and satellite TV providers to allow their customers to pick and choose the channels they pay for.
The support of Blumenthal, a member of the committee with jurisdiction over the issue, gives the "a la carte" TV bill a new boost of momentum, but it still faces fierce industry opposition and long odds in Congress.
Reddit joins lobby group: Reddit, the popular link-sharing and discussion website, announced on Tuesday that it has joined the Internet Association, a Washington lobbying group.
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