By Paula Katinas
Brooklyn Daily Eagle
An amendment to a defense appropriations bill could put a leash on the National Security Agency (NSA) and its controversial practice of spying on Americans, according to U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler.
Nadler (D-Brooklyn-Manhattan), a member of the House Judiciary Committee, worked to garner support for the Sensenbrenner/Lofgren/Massie amendment which he said seeks to end a “backdoor search” loophole currently in place that permits the NSA to look through the communications, including emails and cell phone conversations, of U.S. citizens without a warrant.
Media-Alliance.org reported that the House passed the amendment by a lopsided 293-129 vote last week.
The bi-partisan amendment, which was supported by Democrats and Republicans alike, will now be added to a Department of Defense appropriations bill.
“I am proud to be a leading co-sponsor of the Sensenbrenner/Lofgren/Massie amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act. After the passage of the USA Freedom Act, this amendment is the logical next step to prevent improper surveillance,” Nadler said. “I will continue to work to improve our nation’s privacy laws and to ensure that this administration, and all those that follow it, respect the constitutional rights of all Americans."
Specifically, the amendment seeks to prohibit funds from being used to gather data on Americans through backdoor means, without a search warrant, for example.
In a speech last month on the floor of the house, Nadler spoke about the need to approve another piece of legislation, the USA Freedom Act, a bill sponsored by U.S. Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) that would end the blanket storage of data on average Americans by the NSA. Nadler said that the bill needed improvement, but was a good first step.
“The USA Freedom Act on the floor today certainly does not give us everything we want or need. It is far from perfect, but it is an important step forward. But a ‘no’ vote on this bill may mean no reform at all, thus leaving in place the framework that led to the dragnet surveillance of our citizens,” Nadler said.
During the past several months, Nadler worked with his colleagues on the House Judiciary Committee to pass the USA Freedom Act. While that bill contains some significant reforms, such as ending NSA’s bulk collection of metadata from Americans, more reforms are still needed, he said.
“The NSA must stop conducting illegal ‘backdoor searches’ into the communications of US citizens. Congress must adopt the Sensenbrenner/Lofgren/Massie amendment and make sure that this loophole is closed in the law. For too long, the NSA has misused authority granted under section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, which was meant only to authorize spying on foreigners,” Nadler said. “However, the NSA has misused this authority to search emails, pictures, videos and other Internet traffic of innocent Americans. This practice is clearly unconstitutional and violates the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable search and seizure, and normally requires a court-issued warrant. Clearly, this is not how Congress intended the law to be applied."