House votes for new curbs on government spying

Published on NewsOK Modified: June 19, 2014 at 10:48 pm •  Published: June 19, 2014
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WASHINGTON (AP) — The Republican-led House voted late Thursday to impose new curbs on government spying of Americans as revelations of the secretive National Security Agency's bulk collection of phone records still reverberate a year later.

In a surprise vote, the House backed an amendment to a $570 billion defense spending bill that would bar warrantless collection of personal online information and prohibit access for the NSA and CIA into commercial tech products.

"The American people are sick of being spied on," said Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., who joined with libertarian Republicans and liberal Democrats to push the measure.

That coalition complained that their tough provisions had been stripped from House-passed legislation earlier this year, requiring them to add the measure to the defense bill. Rep. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and other leading Republicans objected to the effort but couldn't sway the rank and file.

The vote was 293-123.

It came one year after leaker Edward Snowden's disclosures about the NSA's actions and nearly a year after the House narrowly rejected a measure by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., to rein in the NSA.

The House is expected to finish the defense bill on Friday after it added tough, new restrictions on President Barack Obama's handling of detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Republicans and some Democrats have repeatedly blocked any effort to shutter the post-Sept. 11 prison to house terror suspects, and congressional furor over Obama's trade last month of five Taliban leaders for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl prompted a bipartisan effort to add fresh obstacles.

The administration exchanged Bergdahl, held captive by the Taliban since 2009, for five Taliban officials who had been at Guantanamo for more than a decade. The five were sent to Qatar, where they are to remain for a year.

Lawmakers were outraged that Obama failed to notify Congress of the exchange within 30 days, as required by law. The bill would bar 85 percent of the funds in the account for overseas conflicts until Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reassures Congress that congressional notification on Guantanamo transfers will be respected.

During debate on Thursday, the House backed two other limits on the president's handling of detainees, voting 230-184 for an amendment by Rep. Tom Cotton, R-Ark., that would impose a one-year moratorium on any transfers of Guantanamo detainees. Cotton said the move was necessary so Congress could investigate "the president's lawless release of the Taliban five."

Cotton said the current Guantanamo population of 149 is "not goat-herders. These are the worst of the worst."

Rep. Peter Visclosky, D-Ind., countered that no one in the administration is even talking about transferring the worst enemy combatants, among them Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the self-professed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attack. He complained that the measure would prevent the president from transferring detainees already cleared for movement.