NSA Reform Gathers Momentum In Congress After Late-Night Vote

After a somewhat desultory year of little to no change, reform of the United States surveillance state appears to have finally found momentum.

Recently the USA FREEDOM Act was gutted and rammed through the House, and two funding amendments that would have cut monies for forced backdoors and certain government searches failed.

Last night, however, the House passed a single amendment to the military funding bill that did what the two failed amendments had attempted. At once, a large House majority had taken an unambiguous stand against certain parts of the government’s surveillance activities.

It’s up to the Senate to act now, but at a minimum, those looking to reform the National Security Agency (NSA) aren’t losing every skirmish.

Where do we go from here? Co-sponsors of the House amendment that passed are pledging more action. In a collection of statements provided to TechCrunch, Rep. Zoe Lofgren said that the “amendment is a worthwhile step forward and will make a meaningful difference, but our work is not done.” Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner had a similar comment, saying that the passage of the amendment, and the USA FREEDOM Act are “positive, but not final, steps in our efforts to reform the administration’s surveillance authorities and protect Americans’ civil liberties.”

In the upper chamber, the current pace of change isn’t enough for some.

The Hill reported on a letter, published today, from Sens. Mark Udall, Ron Wyden, and Martin Heinrich called on the President to end the collection of the phone records of American citizens. In their view, the President has the authority to do so, without the need for congress to pass new legislation.

As you certainly recall, two of those three Senators were part of a separate troika that published an op-ed in the LA Times excoriating the USA FREEDOM Act’s passage in the house, saying that “nearly all of the essential reforms either watered down or removed.”

Momentum in the House, and stridently vocal calls in the Senate for stronger reform? Knock on wood.