Pixel Envy

Written by Nick Heer.

Expansive Surveillance Reform Takes Backseat to Politics

The Hill’s Julian Hattem has terrible news, everybody!

The amendment from Rep. Ted Poe (R-Texas) would block the spy agency from using powers under Section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act to collect Americans’ Internet communications without a warrant. The NSA has relied on the powers of Section 702 to conduct its “PRISM” and “Upstream” collection programs, which gather data from major Web companies such as Facebook and Google, as well as to tap into the networks that make up the backbone of the Internet.

The amendment would have also prevented the government from forcing tech companies to include “backdoors” into their devices, so that the government could access people’s information.

“Would have”? What happened?

As lawmakers stare down the barrel of a deadline to renew or reform the Patriot Act, they have all but assured that more expansive reforms to U.S. intelligence powers won’t be included.

Uh, why? Aren’t you all in favour of this?

The move to drop the fix was all the more frustrating, supporters of the amendment said, because Congress overwhelmingly voted 293-123 to add similar language to a defense spending bill last year.

Okay, not all, but most of you are decidedly for this. Was it the substance of the reforms?

It’s not because of the substance of the reforms — which practically all members of the House Judiciary Committee said they support on Thursday — but…

Oh okay. But?

…because they would derail a carefully calibrated deal and are opposed by GOP leaders in the House and Senate.

Surprise, surprise.