The heads of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday voiced their opposition to a proposal that would defund some of the National Security Agency’s domestic surveillance programs.
“The FISA business records program has contributed to disrupting numerous terrorist attacks against our nation. It has been reviewed and authorized by all three branches of government and is subject to strict controls,” Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Vice Chairman Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) said in a joint statement. “Since the public disclosure of the business records program, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has explored how the program can be modified to add extra privacy protections without sacrificing its effectiveness.”
“We believe this debate in the Congressional Intelligence and Judiciary committees should continue and that any amendments to defund the program on appropriations bills would be unwise.”
Rep. Justin Amash (R-MI) said Tuesday on Facebook that House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) would allow the House of Representatives to vote on the bipartisan Amash-Conyers-Massie-Mulvaney-Polis Amendment.
The amendment to the annual defense spending bill would block funding for NSA programs authorized under Section 215 of the Patriot Act. The so-called business records provision of the Patriot Act has been used by the NSA to indiscriminately amass metadata on phone traffic. The surveillance program has collected data from millions of Americans, including who they talked to and for how long.
The amendment would still allow the NSA to conduct surveillance operations. The agency would only be prohibited from collecting data that does not pertain to a person under investigation.
“The Amash/Conyers amendment would ensure that Section 215 of the Patriot Act is used as Congress originally intended – to protect American citizens from terrorist threats, but not to erode our fundamental freedoms,” said Leslie Harris, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology. “This Amendment does not repeal Section 215. Rather, it ensures that data the NSA collects under this authority pertains to people actually under investigation, rather than to all Americans.”