Will the Next House Speaker Crack Down on the NSA?
Fights over economic policy and House procedure have been at the center of the revolt by the House Freedom Caucus (HFC) against Speaker John Boehner. But another key issue is lurking in the background—a desire by many HFC and other GOP members to truly curb warrantless mass surveillance by the National Security Agency.
One of the ring leaders of Boehner’s ouster, Thomas Massie of Kentucky, has been a vocal critic of existing NSA surveillance programs and has been successful two years in a row in securing House passage of surveillance-related warrantless search bans as appropriations riders. But the 2014 amendment was stripped out of the 2014 omnibus appropriations bill in a backdoor maneuver, orchestrated by Boehner and others in the House leadership who have consistently blocked efforts to rollback the programs exposed by Edward Snowden over two years ago. The same amendment passed again this year, with support from groups across the political spectrum. It might well have met the same fate again this year if not for the fall of Boehner and McCarthy.
Indeed, in less than two years, backers of the vast post-9/11 surveillance apparatus have lost two of their biggest champions in the House. The first was then-Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who was defeated in the 2014 Virginia GOP primary by newcomer and warrantless surveillance opponent David Brat.
The latest casualty is Boehner, a long-time supporter of NSA mass surveillance programs. Boehner alleged in January 2015 that existing surveillance programs uncovered a plot to attack the Capitol. (In fact, the suspect in the plot was given up by an informant seeking to cut a deal on an unrelated criminal charge, according to the federal criminal complaint filed against alleged bomber Christopher Cornell.)