NSA Tries to Save Surveillance Program Before Vote on Amash Proposal

by
July 24, 2013

The National Security Agency held four hours worth of “top secret” briefings Tuesday to lobby members of the House to continue funding its secret surveillance program.

First reported by the Huffington Post, the head of the NSA, Gen. Keith B. Alexander, urged House lawmakers during the two classified briefings to oppose an amendment from Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., that would defund the NSA’s blanket collection of telephone records.

Republicans held a two-hour briefing with Alexander at 11 a.m.; Democrats followed at 1 p.m.

Amash won the battle to have his amendment voted on as part of debate on the Defense Department spending bill, but he has not yet won the war — and he won’t if the NSA has anything to say about it.

Aides theorized Tuesday that the members-only briefing outlined instances in which the surveillance program was successful.

Whatever was discussed did not change Amash’s mind about the program.

A senior aide for Amash told CQ Roll Call on Tuesday afternoon that despite the unusual lobbying effort, the lawmaker had not changed his stance.

“I’ve never heard of an official of that stature, in the middle of the night, being told to hustle down to the Hill for a four-hour long briefing,” the aide said. “The more information members have about the NSA surveillance program, the more unease they have about the program’s operation.”

The aide said Amash went to the 11 a.m. Republican “question and answer session” to monitor the briefing and hear the arguments.

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