Anti-spying measures slipped into funding bill

Anti-spying measures slipped into funding bill
© Francis Riviera

House lawmakers slipped a number of anti-spying provisions into a funding bill that went through the chamber Wednesday evening.

Members of both parties included measures to rein in snooping from the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), National Security Agency (NSA) and other agencies in the Commerce, Justice and Science (CJS) Appropriations Act.


The action comes days after President Obama signed into law legislation ending the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, and as surveillance critics eye new avenues for reform.

Passage of the USA Freedom Act “was a long overdue step, but Americans’ right to privacy is still under attack,” Rep. Darrell IssaDarrell Edward IssaHarris endorses Democrat in tight California House race Democrats go big on diversity with new House recruits GOP sues California over Newsom's vote-by-mail order MORE (R-Calif.) said in a statement.

One amendment from Issa, which was adopted without opposition, would ban the use of “StingRay” devices without a court order. The tools, also known as “IMSI catchers,” replicate cellphone towers and scoop up information about people’s phone data and location.

Local police have been known to use the devices, as have the FBI and U.S. Marshals Service. In the process, the activity has stirred up controversy about the agencies’ ability to warrantlessly pick up innocent bystanders’ information. 

“For years, the federal government has worked with state and local law enforcement agencies to spy on American citizens using the secretive Stingray program,” Issa said in a statement Thursday.

Rep. Jared PolisJared Schutz PolisCuomo to serve as National Association of Governors chair Colorado restaurant that reopened against state order closes permanently Exclusive: Poll shows pressure on vulnerable GOP senators to back state and local coronavirus aid MORE (D-Colo.), meanwhile, added an amendment prohibiting the DEA from ever restarting a previously secret program collecting bulk records about people’s phone calls. The program — which was revealed earlier this year — was halted in 2013.

“Though the Department of Justice temporarily suspended this program in 2013, there is nothing to stop them from picking up where they left off,” Polis said in a statement after his measure was adopted. “My amendment to the CJS appropriations bill will prohibit the DOJ from using federal funds to do exactly that.”

Two other amendments included in the bill would ban the government from forcing tech companies to place “back doors” to get around their security measures, and limit the NSA 's ability to weaken encryption security guidelines. 

The $51.4 billion CJS bill passed through the House 242-183 on Wednesday evening.