How Obama and the House GOP saved the surveillance state

Who says bipartisanship is dead? Last week, the Obama Administration worked with GOP House leadership to gut the USA FREEDOM Act. The original act was a modest step in the right direction when it was introduced last fall. Then, two weeks ago, when it was considered by the House Committee on the Judiciary, the bill was watered down, with most of the worthwhile provisions removed. Campaign for Liberty opposed the Judiciary Committee's bill.

The water-downed version passed out of Judicatory Committee and seemed likely to be passed on the floor. However, a bill which did anything to reign in the surveillance state  was unacceptable to the Obama Administration and the House leadership. So the Administration and certain key members of Congress "negotiated" over how much to further weaken the bill. The result was a bill that did nothing to reign in the NSA expect force the agency to work a little harder to figure out how to spy on Americans.

The new bill was made available late Tuesday afternoon, in order to comply with the House's three-day rule. However, since most of the House was also considering 162 amendments to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), there was not sufficient time for most members to analyze the changes to the bill.

The rule governing terms of the debate of the bill was combined with the rule setting terms of the debate for the 162 amendments to the NDAA the House considered last week. The rule for the USA FREEDOM Act did not allow members to offer any amendments, so there was no opportunity for members change the bill to put in real civil liberties protections. In addition, the rule "deemed" the amendment containing the changes negotiated with the administration passed when the rule passed. So members did not even have the opportunity to vote on accepting the new changes. Adding insult to injury, the bill was only debated on for an hour.

If these sound familiar, it is because it remarkably similar to how the PATRIOT Act was passed. Like the USA FREEDOM Act, the version of the PATRIOT Act that passed out of the Judiciary Committee was replaced with a more restrictive version drafted in secret. Like with USA FREEDOM Act, members of Congress and there staff had little time to read the bill. Finally, like with the USA FREEDOM Act, the changed version of the PATRIOT Act was "deemed" passed by the rule setting the terms of debate and members had no opportunity to amend the bill.

The only reasons any version of the USA FREEDOM Act was considered by the House is because of the pressure put on Congress by Campaign for Liberty members and other pro-liberty Americans. Now the House leadership hopes we will accept their line that the USA FREEDOM Act was the "best we could do" and join them in celebrating the "compromise" USA FREEDOM Act. Well I hate to disappoint the House Leadership, but Campaign for Liberty is not going to accept anything less than a complete end to all unconstitutional surveillance.


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