NSA lackies hijack House reform bill

n13-iconThe Guardian reports: Congressional critics of the bulk collection of telephone records by the National Security Agency fear that its allies are circumventing them in the House of Representatives.

The House parliamentarian, who oversees procedural matters, has determined that a new bill that substantially modifies the seminal 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act will go through the intelligence committee rather than the judiciary committee, a move that two congressional aides consider “highly unusual.”

Seemingly an arcane parliamentary issue, the jurisdiction question reveals a subterranean and intense fight within the House about the future course of US surveillance in the post-Edward Snowden era. The fight does not align with partisan divides, with both sides claiming both Republican and Democratic support.

The bill, authored by Republican Mike Rogers of Michigan and Democrat Dutch Ruppersberger of Maryland, would largely get the NSA out of the business of collecting US phone data in bulk. Rogers and Ruppersberger, both staunch advocates of the NSA and until now just as staunch defenders of bulk collection, are the leaders of the intelligence committee.

Yet the House judiciary committee thought it was the natural choice for primary legislative jurisdiction over the Fisa Transparency and Modernization Act, introduced on Tuesday. While the intelligence committee oversees US spy activities, the judiciary committee has oversight responsibilities over surveillance law. [Continue reading…]

The Associated Press adds: Cyber security experts are questioning whether President Barack Obama can make good on his assurance that U.S. intelligence agencies aren’t spying on “ordinary folks.”

That promise is especially dubious, experts say, in instances where Americans are communicating with U.S. citizens living abroad and other people overseas.

“It’s very clear there are enormous loopholes,” said Jonathan Mayer, a cybersecurity fellow at Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation, who is reverse engineering the NSA surveillance program to learn how much collection — if taken to extremes — is legally possible. “Their rules, combined with their capabilities, cut against the classical protections built into our legal system.”

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