Congress continues to prove it won’t change its ways as 2015 comes to a close.
The week before Christmas, congressional leaders struck a deal with President Obama to pass a catch-all omnibus bill, adding $1.8 trillion to the already burgeoning $18 trillion national debt before everyone went home for the holidays.
Unfortunately for limited government advocates, the madness wasn’t limited to new special interest spending alone.
Congressional leaders managed to sneak a government spying provision into the 2,000 page omnibus bill that comes from the pre-existing Cyber Information Sharing Act (CISA).
Congressman Justin Amash (R-Mich.), well-known for his efforts to curb unconstitutional surveillance, had this to say about his New Year goals:
Amash told the Daily Dot’s Kevin Collier, “Many of my colleagues remain unaware that a massive surveillance bill was snuck into the omnibus. And if they are aware, they may have been misled into believing this bill is about cybersecurity.”
Collier explained, “Two days before its inevitable passage, lawmakers updated the bill to include language from the Cyber Information Sharing Act (CISA), a bill that makes it easier for companies to share details of cyberattacks with the government but is universally loathed by privacy advocates.”
“The Cybersecurity Act of 2015 allows companies like Facebook, Google, or Visa to share cyber threat data—digital evidence of a cyberattack—with the Department of Homeland Security,” Daily Dot reported. “It also grants American firms immunity from prosecution for sharing data that may include customers’ personal data.”
Unfortunately, this shady down-to-the-wire behavior is typical in Congress. Controversial provisions are often snuck into catch-all bills, particularly must-pass ones that will lead to a government shutdown if not signed into law, as was the case with this year’s omnibus.
One pertinent example of this sneaky governing is the ongoing battle that started as a result of language drafted in 2011 as part of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). A generally straightforward spending bill, the NDAA lays out the yearly expenditures of the Department of Defense. When the NDAA for 2012’s fiscal year was released however, it contained a provision that could lead to the indefinite detainment of American citizens merely suspected of terrorism.
Rep. Amash has long fought unconstitutional detention of this sort, alongside extended battles against the Patriot Act and other numerous bills – the latest being CISA – that falsely promise security at the expense of liberty.
This winter break, Amash has made it clear that he has no intentions of backing down from this fight as 2016 begins.
Civil liberties advocates on both sides of the aisle can look forward to the debate around Amash’s impending bill, which will no doubt put both transparency in how Congress legislates and the extent to which government is spying on us at the forefront.
Happy New Year!