Supporters of government secrecy and the mass monitoring of citizens are breathing a sigh of relief.
That’s because an effort to defund the National Security Agency’s broad-based collection of telephone and Internet records failed by a narrow margin in the House last Wednesday.
The Obama administration and many congressional leaders fought hard to protect the program, warning that its repeal would endanger the nation. Despite that, a sizable segment of lawmakers, from across the political spectrum, voted to withhold funds. The final vote was 217-205 to retain the program.
So, the NSA will continue to collect data as part of a still-secret effort. The specific extent of this program is unclear. What is known follows leaks by former NSA private contractor Edward Snowden, who is now hiding out in Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport to avoid arrest by the U.S. government.
We have previously expressed our concern about the scope of this program. And various assurances from the government since it was revealed have failed to resolve the matter.
To the contrary, conflicting statements, combined with sudden pledges to have an open debate related to the program, have made it clear that there are problems. And it doesn’t help that even though the Obama administration said members of Congress were informed about what the NSA was doing, many lawmakers obviously knew nothing about it.
Salem Congressman John Tierney voted in favor of defunding the collection.
“My position has been consistent since Day One,” Tierney, the ranking member of the National Security, Homeland Defense and Foreign Operations Subcommittee of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, told our reporter last week. “The section 215 of the Patriot Act was overly broad.”
(Seth Moulton of Salem, a Marine veteran who served four tours of duty in Iraq and plans to challenge Tierney for the 6th District Democratic nomination, said he would have voted to continue funding the program.)