The US House of Representatives will vote today on axing funding for controversial eavesdropping projects run by the NSA and other spooks.
The politicians will be asked to approve an amendment that will prevent Uncle Sam's spies from snooping on Americans en masse. While the NSA is under fire for hoovering up foreigners' private data from internet giants, it also gathered phone call records on its own citizens in a wholesale manner (and still is).
The amendment [PDF] was tacked onto the end of the Defence Appropriations Bill by Michigan Republican Justin Amash, who is furious that US citizens are under surveillance even if they are not involved in a formal criminal investigation.
The text reads:
Ends authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act. Bars the NSA and other agencies from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect records, including telephone call records, that pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation under Section 215.
Meanwhile, lobby groups Demand Progress and Fight for the Future have urged people to "flood Congress with calls" supporting the bipartisan amendment.
"If you care about the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution and if you believe that privacy is critical to liberty, now is the time to act," they said on new website Defund the NSA.
Amash also said on Twitter that he had received "incredible support" from regular people backing the amendment, despite the fact that President Obama opposes it:
Pres Obama opposes my #NSA amendment, but American people overwhelmingly support it. Will your Rep stand with the WH or the Constitution?— Justin Amash (@repjustinamash) July 24, 2013
The White House said in a statement that it was against the effort "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," it added.
But Amash flung back that domestic eavesdropping programmes aren't exactly open either:
#NSA's unconstitutional spying on ALL Americans was "not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process." It must be stopped now.— Justin Amash (@repjustinamash) July 24, 2013
When's the last time a president put out an emergency statement against an amendment? The Washington elites fear liberty. They fear you.— Justin Amash (@repjustinamash) July 24, 2013
The NSA's secret surveillance projects, enabled in part by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, were outed last month by whistleblower Edward Snowden, who handed the press a dossier on the security agency's activities. Snowden is languishing in Moscow while attempting to gain asylum in pretty much any nation to avoid extradition to the US. ®