(Source: NJ Today)
A razor thin majority said the government should continue to carefully monitor 99 percent of Americans

Just over half of the U.S. House of Representatives approve of the federal government spending billions to police not only terrorists and criminals, but also snoop on the lives of the 98+ percent of Americans.  The razor thin majority argues that to be free of terror, Americans must be willing to give up their freedoms and rights -- including the right to privacy.

I. Libertarian Effort to Restore Privacy is Shot Down in Congress

A proposed amendment to the U.S. Defense Appropriations Bill (H.R. 2397), an annual measure to fund the defense and intelligence agencies, would have "turned off Big Brother" by scaling back spying by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), who tracks the movements of smartphone-using Americans on a daily basis.

Backed by an unlikely alliance of civil libertarians from both sides of the aisle, such as Rep. Ron Paul (R-Tex.), both sides came together to try to pass the amendment.  The amendment (H.Amend 100, H.R. 2397) was authored by Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.).

In the end it came up just 12 votes short of passing, with 422 votes cast.

Defense Appropriations vote
The amendment came up just 12 votes short of passing. [Image Source: NYT]

II. Republicans to Obama : We Have Your Back

Rep. Michelle Bachmann (R.-Minn.) was among the critics of the amendment.  In total, Republicans voted 94 yay and 134 nay on the bill, while Democrats had 111 yays and 83 nays.

The lack of Republican support for the amendment and the strong Democratic support was equally surprising, given that the decision to expand the Bush administration's programs of the domestic surveillance has been a key internal objective of President Barack Hussein Obama (D) and democrats in the Senate.  

NSA Unchained
[Image Source: ACLU]

In short, Republicans in the House appear to be mostly in support of President Obama and Senate Democrats on the issue, and in opposition of their libertarian colleagues.  Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) was a powerful proponent of federal spying spending within his party's ranks.  He characterizes people who oppose the spying, such as NSA leaker Edward Snowden as "traitors".

Obama spying
Republicans in the House have largely supported Obama's spying efforts. [Image Source: AP]

Meanwhile, Democrats in the House are boldly defying their party colleagues both in the Democratic Senate majority and in the White House (a handful of civil libertarian Democrats in the Senate, such as Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) do oppose ubiquitous spending on spying on Americans).

House Republicans have also been crucial supporters of the President's program of warrantless killings of Americans who in deems "terrorists".  They have fought efforts to ban the ubiquitous use of armed drones on U.S. soil, arguing that the drones might one day be necessary to starting hunting down and killing off terrorists on U.S. soil.

Rep. Peter King (R- N.Y.) comments:

I’m not concerned [with the casualty rate]. My belief is that when you are in a war — and we are in a war — the idea is to kill as many of the enemy as you can [even if the enemy is your own people].
There’s evil people in the world. Drones aren’t evil, people are evil. We are a force of good and we are using those drones to carry out the policy of righteousness and goodness.

The New York Republican recently called for efforts to stomp out freedom of the press, urging federal prosecutors to charge journalists who leaked details of and criticized the NSA spying program with Espionage charges.  Despite the fact that the drone strikes killed few members of al-Qaeda's leadership, he says that it's worth preserving the option to kill Americans without having to worry about due process.

Predator missile
Republicans have fought to preserve the Obama administration's privilege to kill Americans it deems "terrorist" with warrantless drone missile strikes. [Image Source: Drone Wars UK]

Rep. King and Rep. Mac Thornberry (R-Tex.) were among the key Republicans in shooting down an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 4310) by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) which would have forced U.S. drone operators to know the identity of a target before killing someone.

III. President Chastises House Democrats for Trying to Limit His Spying on Americans

President Obama's press secretary, Jay Carney, praised House Republicans' decision to support the ongoing spying on Americans.  In a previous statement Mr. Carney (on the President's behalf) had warned:

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.

President Obama
President Obama has had no tolerance for his party colleagues' efforts to stop him from spying. [Image Source: AP]
A separate Amendment -- Rep. Mike Pompeo's (R-Kans.) amendment #99 -- did pass.  It states:

None of funds made available by this Act may be used by the National Security Agency to—(1) conduct an acquisition pursuant to section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 for the purpose of targeting a United States person; or (2) acquire, monitor, or store the contents (as such term is defined in section 2510 of title 18, United States Code) of any electronic communication of a United States person from a provider of electronic communication services to the public pursuant to section 501 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978.

However, many have pointed out that the bill in question already forbids content (e.g. voice conversation) collection on non-suspects.  Hence, the amendment is essentially a false flag that does nothing.  It does not limit the collection (and spending on collection) of metadata, including location tracking records, as Rep. Amash's amendment would have.

Rep. Amash (R) vowed not to let the defeat stop his efforts to restore law abiding Americans' right to privacy.  He and Rep. Conyers have introduced a new bill called the LIBERT-E Act (H.R. 2399), which would offer similar scalebacks to his H.R. 2397 amendment.  That Bill is currently in the committee stage.

Justin Amash
House Republican Justin Amash isn't afraid to defy his colleagues and yet again try to fight for American's right to privacy. [Image Source: Getty Images]

Ultimately, the House Republicans and President Obama's unity on the importance of erasing the rights to privacy is a sign that the terrorists have achieved their goal of impacting the lives of Americans, forcing them to lose privacy they once had and to pay for it to boot.

Sources: NYT: H.R. 2397 Amendment 101 Vote, Rep. John Amash (R), White House

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