It’s a common strategy to tack an “amendment” on to a must-pass bill if you can’t get something through Congress any other way. And so last night, the House of Representatives passed an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill that will cut funding for NSA backdoors. The amendment passed 293 – 123, with 1 representative voting “present.” The amendment had been introduced by Representatives Thomas Massie and Zoe Lofgren.
Rainey Reitman of EFF explains the impact of the amendment:
Currently, the NSA collects emails, browsing and chat history under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act, and searches this information without a warrant for the communications of Americans—a practice known as “backdoor searches.” The amendment would block the NSA from using any of its funding from this Defense Appropriations Bill to conduct such warrantless searches. In addition, the amendment would prohibit the NSA from using its budget to mandate or request that private companies and organizations add backdoors to the encryption standards that are meant to keep you safe on the web.
Mark Rumold, staff attorney for the Electronic Frontier Foundation, stated:
Tonight, the House of Representatives took an important first step in reining in the NSA. The House voted overwhelmingly to cut funding for two of the NSA’s invasive surveillance practices: the warrantless searching of Americans’ international communications, and the practice of requiring companies to install vulnerabilities in communications products or services. We applaud the House for taking this important first step, and we look forward to other elected officials standing up for our right to privacy.
Read more on EFF.
Earlier in the day, the House approved another amendment to the defense funding bill that would prohibit the NSA from engaging in any activities that undermine encryption standards developed by the National Institute for Standards and Technology (NIST). Grant Gross has more on both amendments’ passage on Computerworld.
While we will have to see what happens to the defense funding bill in the Senate, it seems that yesterday was a Good Day for privacy advocates and civil libertarians. Not a Great Day, perhaps, but certainly a Good Day.
But what about our overseas colleagues, family, and friends who are being surveilled by the NSA either directly or indirectly, and with or without the help of other countries? When will they have a Good Day, too?