On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted 231-192 to approve a large funding measure to stave off another so-called government shutdown. As objectionable as such measures tend to be, the biggest problem with this particular measure is that a provision extending dubious surveillance powers was inserted at the last minute.
It’s not particularly novel for Congress to slip in assorted measures into “must pass” spending bills. Doing so helps provide appropriate political cover to whoever votes for the spending legislation. It’s just another dirty trick that House leaders of both parties like to play.
Such is the case with the late insertion to reauthorize surveillance powers set to expire on Dec. 15 until March.
Ever since the rushed passage of the USA Patriot Act in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 attacks, the federal government has engaged in sweeping and even unconstitutional mass surveillance of the American people and others.
While some of the excesses have been cut back over time, Congress has still erred on the side of keeping vast surveillance powers in place.
This includes the authority for the call detail records program, which the National Security Agency claims to have ended.