AL.com | Only one member of Alabama's congressional delegation votes to defund NSA's collection of phone records
Only one member of Alabama's congressional delegation votes to defund NSA's collection of phone records
By Leada Gore | AL.com | July 25, 2013
The House of Representatives has turned back a measure that would have stopped the National Security Agency from collecting phone data from millions of Americans, with all but one member of the Alabama congressional delegation voting to allow the controversial program to continue.
Birmingham Republican Spencer Bachus was the lone member of the Alabama Legislative Delegation to support an amendment that would strip funding from the NSA program. Democrat Terri Sewell and Republicans Robert Aderholt, Jo Bonner, Mo Brooks, Martha Roby and Mike Rogers all voted against the NSA amendment introduced by Michigan Republican Justin Amash.
Bachus has been an outspoken critic of the NSA program since news of it was leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
In an earlier hearing, Bachus said "The Star Chamber . . . in England started out . . . as very popular with the people. It allowed people to get justice that otherwise would not," said Bachus, referring to a court that was abolished by Parliament in 1641 over its abuses of power. "But it evolved over time into a powerful weapon for political retribution by the king."
The NSA amendment – tacked on as one of 100 add-ons to the Defense Appropriation Bill - failed 205-217 after a rare collaboration between Republican leaders and the White House against Amash's efforts. One-hundred and eleven Democrats and 94 Republicans voted to stop the NSA program; 83 Democrats and 134 Republicans voted against the amendment.
Amash said the bill was limited to the government's ability under the existing Patriot Act to collect information on Americans who aren't the connected to an ongoing investigation.
"The (bill) imposes reasonable limits on the federal government's surveillance," Amash said. "We accept that free countries must engage in secret operations from time to time to protect their citizens. Free countries must not, however, operate under secret laws."
Critics of the bill said the amendment would have exposed some of the country's most sensitive information and tied the hands of the intelligence community. The White House was particularly vocal in its criticism of the amendment, with spokesperson Jay Carney saying it would "dismantle" anti-terrorism efforts.
"This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process," Carney said.