Himes says House-approved NSA restrictions too broad

Washington – Rep. Jim Himes was in the minority of lawmakers – and the only member of the Connecticut delegation – to vote against an amendment that would end the National Security Agency’s practice of warrantless “back door searches” of the contents of American phone calls and e-mails.

The NSA had collected this information when it swept up information on targeted foreigners. But, given the vastness of NSA databases, information on Americans’ communications was also swept up.

An amendment to the defense appropriations bill introduced by Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., would prohibit the NSA from collecting data from warrantless searches on Americans. It was approved on a 293-123 vote.

Himes, Jim; 4th Dist; 8-2-2010_0The amendment would also block the NSA and CIA from forcing software and hardware providers to include “back door” technology in their products that allow these government agencies easy access to customer communications.

Himes said  “the idea of the amendment is a good idea,” especially the prohibition on “back door” technology.

“But it was way too broadly worded,” Himes said on Monday. “It would have prohibited one-off operations” targeting a terrorist suspect.

NSA critics warned about “back door” searches for years but could not prove them until Edward Snowden leaked information about the NSA’s tactics. The agency says it has legal authority to perform the searches.

The House, with the help of Himes’ vote, approved the defense bill on Friday. But it’s not clear whether the Senate will support the NSA amendment or whether it will be included in a final defense bill.

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