Skip to main content
Advertising

Originally published June 24, 2014 at 5:31 PM | Page modified June 26, 2014 at 9:54 AM

  • Share:
             
  • Comments (0)
  • Print

Corrected version

Editorial: Finally Dealing with the NSA, Congress finds its spine

To pass overdue reforms of the National Security Agency’s spy powers, Congress is regrowing its oversight spine.


Seattle Times Editorial

Reader Comments
Hide / Show comments
Like you even know what they are doing. I think Snowden knows much more than you. MORE
@jimlogic WHAT??? NRA is voluntary.$256 million.in donations. NSA Is not... $10 billion -- goes to the NSA. MORE
@One of the Unwashed Masses @2easyrider I have no problems with our elected officials..We can fire them. It's those... MORE

advertising

PUBLIC outrage over Edward Snowden’s revelations of spying abuses by the National Security Agency has finally had a welcomed consequence. Congress — supine for years in its duty to check the agency’s power — is finally regrowing its spine.

The first indication came in May, when the U.S. House first passed important, but watered-down, reforms. The USA Freedom Act was intended to end the NSA’s bulk and warrantless collection of American’s phone records. But last-minute amendments gave the NSA too much wiggle room to conduct business as usual.

Last week, the spine stiffened. The House, by a 293-123 margin, moved to hit the NSA where it hurts — in its budget — by defunding what the Electronic Frontier Foundation called “two of the NSA’s most invasive surveillance practices,” including the practice of requiring American companies to install backdoor spy holes in communications hardware and software.

Among the Washington delegation, only U.S. Reps. Dave Reichert, R-Auburn, and Doc Hastings, R-Pasco, voted no.

A yes vote on NSA reforms resets the balance between the NSA’s role between homeland protection and bedrock American civil liberties. In the post-9/11 decade of passive and deferring congressional oversight, that balance was tipped dangerously toward the former.

This reset now moves to the U.S. Senate. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., a champion of NSA reform even before Snowden’s revelations, cites the agency’s “long track record of secretly interpreting surveillance laws in incredibly broad ways” as reason for the Senate to further stiffen its spine.

He has the backing of the American people. A recent Pew Research poll found broad cynicism about President Obama’s support for NSA reforms. By a 4-to-1 margin, Americans disbelieved the claim that reforms will weaken the fight on terrorism.

Congress, finally, is reclaiming its oversight spine.

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).

Information in this article, originally published June 24, 2014, was corrected June 26, 2014. A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the National Security Agency.



Want unlimited access to seattletimes.com? Subscribe now!

The Seattle Times photographs

Seattle space needle and mountains

Purchase The Seattle Times images


Advertising
The Seattle Times

The door is closed, but it's not locked.

Take a minute to subscribe and continue to enjoy The Seattle Times for as little as 99 cents a week.

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Subscriber login ►
The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription upgrade.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. For unlimited seattletimes.com access, please upgrade your digital subscription.

Call customer service at 1.800.542.0820 for assistance with your upgrade or questions about your subscriber status.

The Seattle Times

To keep reading, you need a subscription.

We hope you have enjoyed your complimentary access. Subscribe now for unlimited access!

Subscription options ►

Already a subscriber?

We've got good news for you. Unlimited seattletimes.com content access is included with most subscriptions.

Activate Subscriber Account ►