Thursday, July 25, 2013

Not quite

Last night saw the first serious challenge to the NSA's abuse of Americans' privacy, with an amendment before congress to limit the NSA's powers. Sadly, it failed:

The first major legislative challenge to the National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records from millions of Americans was defeated by only a narrow margin on Wednesday, sending a clear signal to the Obama administration that congressional anger about the extent of domestic surveillance is growing.

Despite a concerted lobbying effort by the White House and senior intelligence figures, the attempt to rein in the NSA failed by only 12 votes. The final vote was 205 in favor and 217 against, exposing deep restiveness in Congress over the wisdom and constitutionality of the bulk surveillance on Americans less than two months after the Guardian exposed it thanks to leaks from whistleblower Edward Snowden. A shift of seven votes would have changed the outcome.

With such a narrow defeat the suggestion is that Obama will need to limit the spying himself and release more information about it in order to prevent a future loss. Sadly, I think he'll just bull on through. The US national security state has contempt for democracy; it has already lied to Congress about its actions, and seems to believe itself to be above the law. That attitude is deeply entrenched, and I don't think its about to change. But I'd be very happy to be proved wrong.