July 24, 2013, 2:32 AM — The White House is opposed to an amendment to a defense spending bill that would limit spending on mass surveillance by the National Security Agency.
The amendment proposed by Rep. Justin Amash, a Republican from Michigan, would limit spending only to orders by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that collect phone and other data only of a person who is the subject of an investigation.
Former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden, disclosed through newspaper reports in June that the NSA was collecting phone metadata from Verizon customers in the U.S. as part of its surveillance which was said to include data collected from Internet companies as well.
The authorization to the NSA to collect phone metadata in bulk was last week renewed by the FISC court. The Department of Justice has said that it has to retain the bulk data required by its counterterrorism tools, as it need not be retained by telecommunications service providers.
The administration of President Barack Obama said Tuesday that it opposes "the current effort in the House to hastily dismantle one of our Intelligence Community's counterterrorism tools." "This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process," it added.
In line with his promise in June to have a debate on the issues thrown up by the disclosures of NSA surveillance, Obama has taken several steps including his meeting with the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board, and disclosures by the office of the Director of National Intelligence, according to a statement by the White House press secretary.
The amendment proposed by Amash would limit the collection of telephone numbers dialed, telephone numbers of incoming calls, and the duration of calls to that of the person under investigation.
Google, Microsoft and other Internet companies have sought clearance from the secret FISC court to disclose aggregate numbers of requests for customer data under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and related rules. The companies were said to have provided to the NSA access in real-time to content on their servers under a NSA program called Prism, which the companies have denied.