Earlier this week President Obama announced a proposal to shut down the NSA’s bulk collection of telephone metadata. I thought that was great, but wondered if Republicans would go along. After all, it’s an election year, and it might make a good political football even if lots of Republicans are already on record opposing the program.
Well, apparently Republicans plan to go along. Dave Weigel reports:
By Tuesday morning the Republican-run House Intelligence Committee was polishing and promoting the End Bulk Collection Act of 2014, which would grudgingly achieve much of what the White House grudgingly asked for. On Tuesday afternoon, Sens. Rand Paul, Ron Wyden, and Mark Udall strolled into a Senate hallway bustling with reporters to accept the NSA’s partial surrender.
….“It’s very clear now that the administration agrees with us,” said Wyden….“They’re looking for congressional permission to stop doing what they’re doing,” said Paul….“The Congress ought to codify what the president’s done so the message is sent to future presidents,” said Udall.
….It was exactly what the administration and the NSA’s defenders wanted to hear. They’d never wanted to end metadata collection. They defended it for months….“I passionately believe that this program saved American lives,” said Rogers at an hourlong press conference with Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger, the committee’s ranking member, where they outlined their bill to end bulk metadata collection….“I started out with, maybe we ought to stick with the program that has been tested, legally overseen, and protects civil liberties. Well, we’re beyond that. We get that.”
We don’t know exactly what the EBCA will contain, or what it will look like once it’s gone through the sausage factory. At the moment, though, it looks likely that Congress will indeed end the NSA’s metadata collection program. That’s good news. It’s better to have it come from Congress than from an executive order.