THE UNITED STATES House of Representatives has voted by a thin majority in favour of letting the US National Security Agency (NSA) continue snooping on the American people without reason.
The US government has been asked repeatedly to release more information about the NSA PRISM data collection programme, apparently to no avail.
Various European governments, political parties, businesses and organisations have pressed the US government to open up about its sweeping intelligence dragnet. After this vote it doesn't look like it will.
The 205 to 217 vote defeated an amendment to a defence bill that would have ended US government "authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act", and required it to provide reasons and obtain court warrants for NSA surveillance of individual US citizens.
The vote was called for by Republican congressman Justin Amash, who bemoaned the results on Facebook.
"We came close (205-217)," he said. "If just seven Representatives had switched their votes, we would have succeeded. Thank YOU for making a difference. We fight on to defend liberty."
In a speech posted online before the vote Amash said that the amendment would not have stopped US government snooping, but would have scaled it back.
"NSA and the FBI can continue to collect telephone records, car rental reservations, hotel receipts, and any other 'tangible thing'," he said.
"NSA can continue to collect telephone metadata without a warrant and without probable cause that a crime or other statutory violation has been committed. The amendment simply requires that there be a reasonable connection between the documents sought and the person under investigation."
He had asked the US Congress to "oppose the NSA's blanket surveillance of your constituents". It is perhaps a shame, therefore, that 217 of them opposed the amendment.
Earlier in the day he had pointed out that the amendment had drawn strong opposition from the White House. He asked, "When's the last time a president put out an emergency statement against an amendment?"
"The Washington elites fear liberty. They fear you." µ
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