House leadership again blocks debate on surveillance state reform

Today the House of Representatives is considering the Intelligence Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016 (HR 2596). The rule governing debate for the bill allows the House to vote on 16 of the 29 amendments that where submitted to the Rule Committee for debate.

An examination of some of the amendments rejected for floor consideration reveals an interesting pattern. Representative Thomas Massive (R-KY) and Representative Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) offered a version of their amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill that overwhelming passed the House last week. This amendment was not made in order.

Ok, you may say, it may make sense to not have another vote on an amendment that was recently debated and voted on. However, the Rules Committee also failed to make in order an amendment submitted by Representative Justin Amash (R-MI) that would have required the goverment to "follow proper legal process" before obtaining and storing our telephone and email records, and an amendment by Representative Alan Grayson prohibiting collection of megadata without probable cause.   The Rules Committee blocked a bipartisan amendment reinstating protections for whisleblowers, and an amendment regarding a report on causalities caused by drone attacks.

Every pro-civil liberties amendment offered was ruled out of order by the Rules Committee. Instead, Congress is debating amendments that would allow the Director of National Intelligence to submit grants to Hispanic Serving Institutions; as well as amendments requiring various intelligence agencies to provides reports to Congress on cyber security and  tunnel use by our adversaries.

The Rules Committee also made in order a number of amendments calling for greater US involvement overseas, such as one requiring the Director of National Intelligence to submit a report to Congress on "the funding of political parties and NGOs in former Soviet states by the Russian Federation and the security and intelligence services of the Russian Federation."  So Congress will spend more time debating the actions of the Russian intelligence services than the action of American intelligence services.

If I were cynical (and I am ) I would think that it is almost as if the House leadership is abusing their power to block any further debates on the surveillance state because they know they are on the wrong side of the Constitution and public opinion and do not want to be embarrassed  by losing any more votes on this issue.




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