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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Rep. Amash On Reining In NSA Surveillance

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., comments about the vote on the defense spending bill and his failed amendment that would have cut funding to the National Security Agency's program that collects the phone records of U.S. citizens and residents, at the Capitol, Wednesday, July 24, 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., comments about the vote on the defense spending bill and his failed amendment that would have cut funding to the National Security Agency’s program that collects the phone records of U.S. citizens and residents, at the Capitol, Wednesday, July 24, 2013. (J. Scott Applewhite/AP)

Republican Congressman Justin Amash, who represents Michigan’s 3rd district, is often called “the most defiant Republican in the House.”

He recently proposed and led the charge on the amendment that would have defunded the National Security Agency’s program of domestic surveillance.

That program was brought to light when Edward Snowden — the former N.S.A. contractor — leaked government documents to The Guardian and The Washington Post.

There may in fact be areas in which he has done something very harmful, but in other ways he’s been helpful by releasing this information.

– Rep. Justin Amash on Edward Snowden

Although Amash’s amendment narrowly lost, it had strong bipartisan support.

Amash is still pursing legislation that would curb the NSA’s ability to have such widespread authority to collect data on American citizens.

“Certainly, if you’re the government, you want to have as much information as possible,” Amash told Here & Now. “But we have a Constitution that already balances liberty and security. And the Constitution tells us we can’t collect this kind of information on Americans.”

The legislation he is trying to bring to the floor, the Liberty Act, would amend the Patriot Act to let the NSA only collect data on people who are under investigation. It would also provide more transparency in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance (FISA) courts.

Although Snowden’s disclosure was the reason Congress found out about the NSA’s program, Amash has mixed feelings about him.

“There may in fact be areas in which he has done something very harmful, but in other ways he’s been helpful by releasing this information,” Amash said.

He does think there should be a legal way for people like Snowden to act on their beliefs.

“When we have people in government or contractors who feel they need to blow the whistle on something they believe is illegal or unconstitutional, we need better avenues for them to be able to do so,” Amash said. “Mr. Snowden could not have come to me, as a member of Congress, and told me about the program. That would have violated the law just as anything else would have.”

Guest

  • Justin Amash, Republican Congressman representing Michigan’s Third District.

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Robin Young and Jeremy Hobson host Here & Now, a live two-hour production of NPR and WBUR Boston.

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