WASHINGTON, D.C. – Lawmakers defeated a proposal that would have restricted how the National Security Administration collects telephone records of Americans yesterday.
The bipartisan proposal, put forward by an unlikely coalition of liberal and conservative members, failed when the House of Representatives voted against it by a 217-205 margin, with 12 members not voting.
New Jersey’s 12-member House delegation was divided. Democrats Bill Pascrell and Rush Holt joined Republicans Chris Smith and Scott Garrett to vote in favor of the proposal. Democrats Rob Andrews, Albio Sires, and Donald Payne Jr. voted no, as did Republicans Frank LoBiondo, John Runyan, Leonard Lance and Rodney Frelighuysen. Democrat Frank Pallone did not cast a vote.
The proposal, sponsored by Reps. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) and John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.), came about in response to revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden that the agency had secretly collected phone records on millions of Americans.
It would have restricted the collection of metadata to situations where it was connected to a relevant ongoing investigation. The proposal would also have required the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to publish summaries of its secret opinions for public review and make the opinions themselves available to lawmakers.
The Senate was unlikely to pass a similar measure and the Obama administration had signaled its intention to veto this or any similar proposals.
Government officials maintain that the data collection is a necessary intelligence tool and say that they are not reviewing the contents of calls – just the phone numbers and call lengths.
Civil liberty advocates point to the NSA program as another sign of America’s diminishing freedom.
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