Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The White House is Trolling Democracy with its Statement on the Amash-Conyers Amendment

Reps. Justin Amash, John Conyers, Jr., Thomas Massie, Mick Mulvaney, and Jared Polis are proposing an amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill that would curtail funding for the implementation of orders under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act unless the order is explicitly limited in scope.

Here is the key language of the amendment:
This Order limits the collection of any tangible things (including telephone numbers dialed, telephone numbers of incoming calls, and the duration of calls) that may be authorized to be collected pursuant to this Order to those tangible things that pertain to a person who is the subject of an investigation described in section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1861).
(emphasis added)

The House Republican leadership had attempted to use procedural tricks to limit the amendment process and prevent the Amash-Conyers amendment from coming to a vote. Thankfully, the civil libertarian won the first part of the battle:  There will be a vote tomorrow.

The White House just released a statement on the amendment, and it just seems as though they are consciously trolling democracy here:
    Office of the Press Secretary
    July 23, 2013     Statement by the Press Secretary on the Amash Amendment

In light of the recent unauthorized disclosures, the President has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens.  The Administration has taken various proactive steps to advance this debate including the President’s meeting with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, his public statements on the disclosed programs, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s release of its own public statements, ODNI General Counsel Bob Litt’s speech at Brookings, and ODNI’s decision to declassify and disclose publicly that the Administration filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.  We look forward to continuing to discuss these critical issues with the American people and the Congress.

However, we oppose the current effort in the House 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.  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.
(Emphasis added)

So, a debate and vote that will take place on C-SPAN is not "open" or "deliberative" to the White House.  It doesn't meet the standards of "openness" of a White House that thinks that NSA spying is transparent because there is a secret court to rubber stamp government requests.  It doesn't meet the standards of "openness" or "deliberation" of a White House which sent NSA Director Keith Alexander to the Hill earlier today for closed, separate meetings with each party to fear monger about the amendment and persuade members of Congress to vote against the bill.  We won't ever get to see what Alexander said to the members of Congress.  But we will get to see what they say on the floor tomorrow and how they vote.  And, for me, that will be open, informed, and deliberative as the legislative process should be.

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