The White House weighed in on an amendment, slated for an imminent vote in the House, that would defund the National Security Agency's bulk phone metadata collection. Spoiler alert: they're against it. Here's the full statement from Press Secretary Jay Carney on the proposed amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill, otherwise known as the "Amash Amendment:"
In light of the recent unauthorized disclosures, the President has said that he welcomes a debate about how best to simultaneously safeguard both our national security and the privacy of our citizens. The Administration has taken various proactive steps to advance this debate including the President’s meeting with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, his public statements on the disclosed programs, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence’s release of its own public statements, ODNI General Counsel Bob Litt’s speech at Brookings, and ODNI’s decision to declassify and disclose publicly that the Administration filed an application with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. We look forward to continuing to discuss these critical issues with the American people and the Congress.
However, we oppose the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community’s counterterrorism tools. This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process. We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation.
The amendment, of course, takes its name from second-term Republican Rep. Justin Amash, who (as the National Journal noted) is hoping that the measure will help to increase his national profile. The amendment would prohibit the funding of phone metadata collection without a FISC order indicating that the collection pertains to a specific investigation of an individual. Essentially, that eliminates NSA chief Keith Alexander's "collect the whole haystack" approach to data mining, at least of phone metadata.
The advancement of Amash's amendment to the point where the White House would have to denounce it is kind of a surprise: it wasn't really expected to advance to a floor vote in the House at all. But nevertheless, it did. But as we explained earlier today, it has nearly no chance of becoming law: even if it manages to get enough votes in the House, which isn't a sure thing, its chances in the Senate are low, and Obama would almost certainly would veto the bill if it made it to his desk. Given, however, the statement Tuesday night and an earlier, members-only appearance by NSA chief Keith Alexander at the Capitol today, it looks like the White House is trying to make doubly sure that the amendment doesn't make it far.
Rep. Amash has already responded to the White House statement on Twitter:
Pres Obama opposes my #NSA amendment, but American people overwhelmingly support it. Will your Rep stand with the WH or the Constitution?— Justin Amash (@repjustinamash) July 24, 2013