Every normal man must be tempted, at times, to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin slitting throats. –H.L. Mencken
I am endlessly fascinated by the attention Congressman Justin Amash’s amendment has gotten. Last week he was able to get a vote on the following amendment to H.R. 2397, the Department of Defense Appropriations Act for 2014.
AMENDMENT TO H.R. 2397, AS REPORTED
OFFERED BY MR. AMASH OF MICHIGAN
At the end of the bill (before the short title), insert
the following new section:
1 SEC. ll. None of the funds made available by this
2 Act may be used to execute a Foreign Intelligence Surveil3
lance Court order pursuant to section 501 of the Foreign
4 Intelligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1861)
5 that does not include the following sentence: ‘‘This Order
6 limits the collection of any tangible things (including tele7
phone numbers dialed, telephone numbers of incoming
8 calls, and the duration of calls) that may be authorized
9 to be collected pursuant to this Order to those tangible
10 things that pertain to a person who is the subject of an
11 investigation described in section 501 of the Foreign Intel12
ligence Surveillance Act of 1978 (50 U.S.C. 1861).’’.
It was defeated by 12 votes, 205-217.
The “libertarian” blogosphere was all abuzz before the vote, waiting with bated breath at the outcome.
My cynical comments to some of these tweets and FriendFace postings were meet with “at least he’s doing something”, “defunding is the first step”, and “he has pictures of Menger, Mises, and Rothbard on his office wall” type of responses.
I have not followed Amash at all. He may be a friend of liberty and trying to do the right thing, I don’t know. But here are a few reasons why the defeat of his amendment is at best a boon for liberty and at worst irrelevant.
1. Those who voted against it have once again shown their true colors and further rebuked the notion that there is a difference between the parties or that one is more favorable to liberty than the other. As Infowars reported:
An analysis of the roll call reveals that a majority of Democrats voted in favor of restricting the Obama administration’s wholesale surveillance of Americans, while a majority of the GOP voted to uphold the NSA’s unconstitutional surveillance of all electronic communications.
As it stands, the best explanation is that those voting against it are in deeper with the military-industrial complex than those voting for it.
2. The passage of this amendment would have done nothing to defeat the NSA or curb ubiquitous domestic data collection and spying.
The NSA, a co-equal branch of the surveilance state with the CIA, has absolutely no regard for the law or anyone’s privacy, only their own. If it did, we would not even be talking about Edward Snowden as he would have had nothing to “leak”.
To drive the point home, if the NSA cared about the law, it would immediately disband itself for being the unconstitutional body that it is.
I’m not holding my breath.
3. This amendment was attached to a DoD spending bill totalling $512.5 billion.
The war machine marches on. There is no difference between the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, CIA, NSA, FSB, etc, etc etc. They are all part of the same industry.
Slapping the hand of the NSA with this amendment is, as Thoreau noted, “hacking at the branches of evil” rather than striking at the root.
4. FISA courts still exist.
These secret courts can and will continue to approve of domestic spying while keeping the records secret so no one can find out. Who cares if the NSA has to go to a FISA judge to get a rubber stamp before looking through all of our records?
The end result is the same, except that if people think the NSA has been “defunded” they will be less vigilant.
5. The NSA’s funds are fungible and probably come from other places anyway.
We already know that the CIA has a long history of using black money to finance its illegal operations. Why should we think the NSA is any different, or that they can’t simply redirect or obfuscate their funds to continue spying? See number 2.
6. This legislation does nothing to destroy the seven years of data mining the NSA has been doing.
Why would we believe that they will go destroy all of the records in PRISM?
Will James Clapper tell us so?
Will they dismantle the Utah Data Center?
Of course not.
No, friends of liberty, all the passage of this amendment would have done is put people at ease, which is not what we want right now. We need people to continue to harass, embarrass, and generally make life miserable for everyone in the US Security State, not just the evil people at the NSA.