The US House of Representatives has rejected an amendment to the Department of Defense funding bill that would have curbed the National Security Agency’s ability to collect bulk phone records and metadata on millions of Americans.
The measure was narrowly defeated, 205-217.
Idaho's U.S. House delegation split the Gem State's votes.
Republican Rep. Raul Labrador voted yes, in a losing effort, while Republican Rep. Mike Simpson voted no.
Michigan Republican Congressman Justin Amash and Michigan Democrat John Conyers had proposed the amendment, which sought to restrict NSA’s ability to spy on Americans not suspected of terrorist activity.
“It was shocking and disappointing that we went this far,” Rep. Conyers told the Washington Post in an interview earlier Wednesday. “I’m not happy about it. What we’re trying to do now is see if we can [fix it] without upsetting our need for protection and the kind of authority that we do need. We can do it without hurting national security or efforts to protect against terrorism or other acts that would be detrimental to the United States.”
On Tuesday, the senior members of the House intelligence committee, Republican chairman Mike Rogers and Democratic Dutch Ruppersberger, urged their colleagues to reject the amendment, as did NSA chief Gen. Keith Alexander and the White House.
“This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open or deliberative process,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in a statement. “We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.”
While the amendment has been defeated, the fight to protect privacy is barely missing a beat. On Thursday, a New York court is scheduled to hear preliminary legal arguments in an ACLU lawsuit that challenges the constitutionality of the NSA's mass collection of phone records, the Guardian reported.