The U.S. House of Representatives missed an opportunity to stand up for personal liberties when it narrowly rejected an amendment that would have blocked the National Security Agency's broad program of gathering phone data of Americans. The amendment, offered by Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., would have barred the NSA from collecting information on persons who are not suspected of a crime.
In an interesting contrast to usual action on the House floor, leaders of both political parties, Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., lobbied to get enough votes to keep the data-gathering program. President Barack Obama also supports the NSA snooping program.
Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, voted with the White House and congressional leadership. All three of Utah's Republican congressmen, including Rep. Rob Bishop, voted to restrict the NSA snooping. The vote was close, 217-205, to maintain the once-secret surveillance program.
We're proud of Rep. Bishop and the other 204 legislators who wanted to ban the NSA from snooping on Americans who are not suspected of a crime. In our opinion, the NSA program, which includes collecting data on numbers dialed, how long calls last, and the location of a call, is a violation of the Fourth Amendment. It's an example of how criminal and terrorist surveillance has gone beyond acceptable boundaries since the Sept. 11 attacks. Collecting this type of metadata, which may soon be stored in Utah when a federal data center opens later this year, goes too far. It infringes on our personal liberties. Its supporters invoke fear of another terrorist attack to justify these measures, which are contrary to the ideals of our nation's Constitution.
The NSA program, as well as other snooping programs, were revealed by former NSA contract employee Edward Snowden, who has fled the U.S. and is holed up in a Moscow airport while seeking sanctuary from several nations.