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Congress just significantly increased the spying power of the National Security Agency without anyone really noticing.

That is, with the exception of civil liberties and privacy hawk Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.). Reported National Journal:

Congress this week quietly passed a bill that may give unprecedented legal authority to the government’s warrantless surveillance powers, despite a last-minute effort by Rep. Justin Amash to kill the bill.

Amash staged an aggressive eleventh-hour rally Wednesday night to block passage of the Intelligence Authorization Act, which will fund intelligence agencies for the next fiscal year. The Michigan Republican sounded alarms over recently amended language in the package that he said will for the first time give congressional backing to a controversial Reagan-era decree granting broad surveillance authority to the president.

The controversial provision Amash opposed “authorizes ‘the acquisition, retention, and dissemination’ of nonpublic communications, including those to and from U.S. persons.  The section contemplates that those private communications of Americans, obtained without a court order, may be transferred to domestic law enforcement for criminal investigations.”

If Americans worry about the NSA monitoring the private communications of every American citizen, now the federal government–and particularly the executive branch–will be able to share that information with law enforcement.

Would Republicans be comfortable with President Obama having such powers? Would Democrats have been comfortable with George W. Bush having such power?

Why didn’t more Americans hear about this? Shouldn’t more be aware? Shouldn’t everyone be disturbed by this?

Rep. Amash wondered the same thing, when he posted the following on his Facebook Wednesday (emphasis added):

When I learned that the Intelligence Authorization Act for FY 2015 was being rushed to the floor for a vote—with little debate and only a voice vote expected (i.e., simply declared “passed” with almost nobody in the room)—I asked my legislative staff to quickly review the bill for unusual language. What they discovered is one of the most egregious sections of law I’ve encountered during my time as a representative: It grants the executive branch virtually unlimited access to the communications of every American.

Rare Staff |