I happened to be on the phone with a political expert and insider when the result of the Amash amendment vote in the House of Representatives hit the news wires. While I am sure readers will be disappointed that this proposal to curb the NSA was defeated (see background here), the margin of victory for the bad guys was so stunningly narrow that it shows how badly support for the NSA has fallen even among its normal allies. When I read the vote results to my expert, 205 to 217, his reaction was uncharacteristically heated (he describes his degree of sang froid as somewhere between that of a Chinese sage and a dead dog):
Holy shit, this is huge. The NSA must be shitting in its pants. They got this close to beating them when the opponents had no time and no organizing, and the White House was throwing its weight behind this too.
From the New York Times:
The 205-to- 217 vote was far closer than expected and came after a brief but impassioned debate over a citizen’s right to privacy and the steps the government must take to protect national security. It was a rare instance in which a classified intelligence program was openly discussed on the House floor, and the issue led to some unusual coalitions. Conservative Republicans leery of what they see as Obama administration abuses of power teamed with liberal Democrats long opposed to intrusive intelligence programs. The Obama administration made common cause with the House Republican leadership to try to block it.
This describes some of the arm-twisting to get votes against the amendment:
On Tuesday, the director of the National Security Agency, General Keith Alexander spent hours providing classified briefings to lawmakers about the program, and the White House took the unusual step of issuing a statement urging lawmakers not to approve it. On Wednesday, the retired Marine Corps General James L. Jones, who was Mr. Obama’s national security adviser from 2009-2010, added his name to an open letter in support of preserving the N.S.A. programs that had been signed by more than half a dozen top national-security officials from the Bush administration.
“Denying the NSA such access to data will leave the Nation at risk,” said the letter, which lawmakers and staffers who opposed Mr. Amash’s amendment circulated to undecided members.
This vote mattered. Greenwald has indicated that he has even more explosive material from Snowden that has yet to be released. The fat lady has not sung yet, and more revelations will give legislators and the public a chance to have another go at the agency’s brazen overreach.
Here’s the breakdown, again from the Times:
And the roll call follows (hat tip Deontos). If you care at all about this issue, call or write your Representative tomorrow and tell them, in no uncertain terms, what you think about their vote (as in “attaboy/girl” if they voted yes, and a rebuke if not).