US spy programme clearing House of Representatives

It appears that US law makers have no interest in curbing the PRISM spy programme.

According to Reuters, the House of Representatives voted 217-205 to defeat an amendment to the defence appropriations bill that would have limited the National Security Agency’s ability to collect electronic information, including phone call records.

Fighting the law was an unlikely alliance of libertarian Republicans and some Democrats in Congress. In fact 94 Republicans were in favour and 134 against, while 111 Democrats supported the amendment and 83 opposed it.

But the White House and senior intelligence officials opposed the amendment by Republican Representative Justin Amash of Michigan, which had been prompted by Edward Snowden’s revelations.

The lawmakers went on to approve $600 billion in Pentagon spending for the 2014 fiscal year, including the costs of the Afghanistan war.

Republican representative Tom Cotton said that there was nothing to worry about as the “metadata” being collected was a five-column spreadsheet containing the number called, the number of the caller, the date, the time and the duration of call. 

He insisted that the program has stopped dozens of terrorist attacks, and saved untold American lives. He did not say when these evens happened, in fact so far no one has ever cited any case where terrorists were pre-empted by PRISM.

But then Cotton is a former Army captain who served in Iraq and Afghanistan so he is not likely to call for anything that limits defence spending.

Amash, a conservative Republican, and other supporters of the amendment said the issue was whether the US government had the right to collect and retain the personal communications data of American citizens.

Ted Poe, a Texas Republican, said that the government has gone too far in the name of security. He called for a reining in of government invasion, the ending of dragnet operations, and the need to get a specific warrant based on probable cause or nothing at all.