View Full Version : House defeats Massie-Lofgren encryption amendment

07-02-2016, 08:25 PM
House defeats privacy measure in wake of Orlando shootings

By Cory Bennett

The House on Thursday blocked an amendment that opponents said would have taken away critical intelligence tools just four days after the worst mass shooting in U.S. history.

The 198-222 vote is a blow for privacy advocates who have spent years building support for the amendment, which would have barred the government from forcing companies to weaken their encryption for law enforcement. The provision passed the House twice in 2014 and 2015 by wide margins, before being stripped each time during conferences with the Senate.

But Sunday’s deadly assault in Orlando, in which suspected Islamic State supporter Omar Mateen shot and killed 49 people at a gay nightclub, caused a drastic erosion in support for the language. Opponents cited the attack as the main reason Congress couldn’t approve the amendment.


Privacy advocates accused Goodlatte and other detractors of using “fear tactics” to reduce support for what has been a widely supported House amendment for two years running.

“It’s unfortunate my colleagues would take advantage of that situation,” said Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), who co-sponsored the amendment with Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.).

The language “does not take any tools away from those that want to investigate what happened in Orlando,” Massie insisted.

Advocates argue that the provision merely prevents the NSA or the CIA from requiring anyone to alter their products to allow digital snooping. They say this would preserve the encryption that protects the nation’s power grid, air traffic control system and all smartphones.


read more:

07-02-2016, 08:28 PM
some quotes from Massie:

Rep. Thomas Massie (R-Ky.), the sponsor of the amendment the last three years, said he thought there were two reasons the proposal failed on Thursday. “I think it was about Orlando and a stronger disinformation campaign from the committee,” he said, referring to a letter from Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) that criticized the amendment.

“We had a stiff headwind,” Massie continued. “But I think the winds will eventually change, and we’ll prevail one day.”


Rep. Chris Stewart (R-Utah), who said he rose “to oppose the Massie amendment and the inaccurate accusations that underly it,” argued that if the proposal were in effect today, the intelligence community would be unable to search the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act database for information on the deceased Orlando shooter, Omar Mateen. FISA is a law used to collect data on foreigners, but the National Security Agency dragnet also catches information on U.S. citizens who interact with those foreigners.

“We should be focused on thwarting terrorist attacks,” Stewart said Wednesday, “not on thwarting the ability of intelligence professionals to investigate and stop them.”

House Judiciary Chairman Robert Goodlatte (R-Va.) voiced similar concerns. “This amendment prohibits the government from searching data already in its possession, collected lawfully under section 702 of FISA, to determine whether Omar Mateen was in contact with foreign terrorists overseas,” Goodlatte said, as Massie shook his head in disagreement.

Massie said it was “a complete mischaracterization” to claim that the government wouldn’t be able to search FISA databases for information on Mateen, and urged lawmakers not to fall for that argument. “You obviously can get a warrant on the perpetrator of this crime,” he said.

The spirited debate continued even after the House had moved on. Stewart and Massie exchanged words in the back of the chamber, and at one point, Stewart aggressively grabbed Massie’s arm to prevent him from walking away.

Asked about the exchange after, Massie told The Huffington Post that he had said to Stewart, “Get your hands off me!”

“I almost went Charlton Heston on him,” Massie said.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/house-rejects-fisa-amendment_us_5762cb13e4b0df4d586f6dff?hky8jb5f72iv 8to6r

After the vote, Massie told U.S. News he found it "somewhat ironic that the Democrats hoped to use the event in Orlando to erode the Second Amendment while Republicans have gone against the Fourth Amendment.”

Massie says he’s considering splitting the “backdoor” amendment in two, as the ban on forced encryption vulnerabilities found little spoken opposition – though he disagrees with Goodlatte’s claim the measure could have barred access to Section 702 records even with a court order.

The libertarian lawmaker says the timing isn't right now, but that some future revelation about abuse of surveillance powers, perhaps from a whistleblower, could give reformers new momentum ahead of next year's debate on whether to renew Section 702.

“This is a textbook case of how a current event can shape political opinion,” Massie says. “But just as easily as the winds shifted against us, they can shift for us at some point in the future.”


07-02-2016, 09:51 PM
Thomas debating the amendment on the House floor



07-02-2016, 10:13 PM
Thomas talks about the amendment with Matt Kibbe (before it was voted on)