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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.

{mosads}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?”

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