Monday, June 23, 2014

Moves Against Surveillance in the House of Representatives

In a late night session, the House of Representatives voted 293 to 123 to pass an amendment to a Department of Defense appropriations bill that would cut off all funds for two of the agency’s most embattled activities: First, using the 702 provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to perform searches of collected surveillance data that target Americans, and second, asking hardware markers and software developers to build backdoors into their tools designed to give the agency access to users’ communications. On that second count, the amendment specifically forbids funding for any agency attempt “to mandate or request that a person redesign its product or service to facilitate…electronic surveillance.”
This is what I hoped would happen after Snowden's revelations and the growing unease among Americans over the government's surveillance capabilities. I never thought there would be a huge uproar and a radical move to curtail surveillance in one big bill. But Congress considers the details of surveillance policy on a regular basis, viz., every time they vote on a budget for the NSA or the Defense Department, and I hope that they will continue to whittle away at domestic spying. These days it is the populists of left and right who are energized about this issue, and the security alarmists who are in weary retreat.

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