Representatives in the House narrowly defeated last Wednesday a bipartisan amendment to the defense appropriations bill, which would have halted the collection of metadata by NSA surveillance programs. At 217 to 205, the vote was closer than expected, and privacy advocates are stepping up their campaigns with help from the international hacker collective, Anonymous.
Six activists from Restore the Fourth, an anti-surveillance group, stormed the office of Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.), who voted “no” on the Amash amendment. The group refused to leave until Meeks apologized for his vote and pledged to fight the NSA surveillance programs. Meeks argued that the NSA programs have not violated the Fourth Amendment.
Advocates are especially critical of the amount of money candidates received from interest groups that lobbied against the Amash amendment.
“Perhaps Meeks’ largest election campaign donor over the last three years, AT&T, which charges taxpayers $325 for every wiretap it activates, played a role in his vote,” Ben Doernberg, a member of Restore the Fourth, said.
Anonymous picked up the same angle, sharing on Twitter what it claims is the average contribution given by interest groups that opposed the Amash amendment. According to the Anonymous post on Pastebin, members of the House that voted “no” received an average of $41,635, about 122 percent more than those who voted “yes.”
— Anonymous (@YourAnonNews) July 30, 2013
Anonymous included a list of House Representatives who voted against the Amash amendment divided by state, along with contact information. Anonymous urged its followers to make phone calls, send emails and share the post via social media.
“These are the people that want to spy on you with your own money,” Anonymous wrote. The post also had links to a detailed breakdown of the political contributions of each House member who voted on the bill, as well as the hashtag “#CanYouTapUsNow.”
The amendment to section 215 of the Patriot Act, which gives the NSA authority to collect metadata in bulk, was proposed by Reps. Justin Amash, R-Mich., and John Conyers, D-Mich. Despite the amendment’s defeat, the bipartisan support (111 Democrats and 94 Republicans voted “yes”) showed that lawmakers are serious about taking action to curtail the NSA’s wiretapping authority. The defeat came after last-minute lobbying from the intelligence community and the Obama administration.
For delivering a "yes" vote on the Amash amendment, Restore the Fourth delivered a “thank you” cake to Rep. Hakim Jeffries, D-N.Y.