| Vote fell along a much different axis than typical party line
by Brian Leubitz
The Amash amendment to the Defense Appropriations went down to defeat last week 205-217-12. The measure would have greatly reigned in the NSA, requiring the data to be only collected from people who are actually being investigated rather than pretty much everybody as it stands.
Among the California delegation however, the vote total was 30-21-2 (if I counted correctly). You can find a table of the California delegation over the flip. At the time, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-SF/San Mateo) had this to say of the vote on Facebook:
Yesterday, I voted for Rep Justin Amash's amendment to the Defense Appropriations Act to limit the NSA's surveillance of Americans. The NSA's collection of Verizon phone records and other such invasive actions cannot be taken lightly. We need to balance the needs of national security with the right to privacy.
Indeed, the bulk sweeps of metadata shouldn't be taken lightly. However, as the Snowden leaks seem to keep spreading, we learn that the NSA isn't confining themselves to the metadata. Check out this article about the NSA's XKeyScore (H/t the Verge):
A top secret National Security Agency program allows analysts to search with no prior authorization through vast databases containing emails, online chats and the browsing histories of millions of individuals, according to documents provided by whistleblower Edward Snowden.
The NSA boasts in training materials that the program, called XKeyscore, is its "widest-reaching" system for developing intelligence from the internet.(The Guardian)
While the data is apparently not stored permanently, mostly because storing that amount of data would likely even sink the NSA. However, the NSA keeps anything they think would be remotely interesting and stores all of the metadata. That is a lot of information, enough to pretty much ensure that the internet is pretty much a world without privacy. Oh, sure you can use a VPN or something like that, but your data is pretty much out there at this point.
The question then remains as to what level we give up our privacy in the fight for security. It is an ages old question, but apparently the answer these days is tilting ever more towards security.