Internet rallies behind bill to unplug NSA surveillance funding (Updated)

US flag, propaganda, PRISM

Online activists have launched a website called “Defund the NSA” in order to collect signatures in support of a legislative amendment that would bar federal funding for warrantless surveillance of Americans. (Update: A vote on the amendment fell short on Wednesday by 12 votes despite a coalition in support between liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans).

The site is gaining traction on popular sites like Hacker News and Reddit and could provide a boost to Rep. Justin Amash, a Michigan Republican popular among libertarians, who wrote the amendment.

The amendment, which is scheduled for a vote on Tuesday, comes as part of a process to approve the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2014, the annual bill that funds America’s military operations.

Under Amash’s proposal, Congress would not grant any money to the NSA for surveillance activity of the sort disclosed in the recent phone and PRISM controversies — those controversies concerned programs under which the NSA relied on anti-terrorism laws aimed at foreigners in order to collect metadata about Americans.

The summary of the Amendment reads like this:

Ends authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act. Bars the NSA and other agencies from using Section 215 of the Patriot Act to collect records, including telephone call records, that pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation under Section 215.

The “Defund the NSA” website was thrown up in 5 hours, according to an email from Sina Khanifar, one of the creators. The activist group also created the recent “restorethefourth” site to back Fourth Amendment protection on July 4th.

It’s unclear how much impact these pop-up style websites have on the legislative process. Last year, online activists at sites like Reddit notched a major victory by halting the anti-piracy legislation known as SOPA; however, internet activists have yet to once again obtain such a critical mass of political power.

The Amash proposal is set for a vote today but, according to the Daily Caller’s report on the story, House leadership is opposed to amendments to the bill.

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