Statement on Failure of Amash Amendment


Trenton, NJ--On Wednesday evening, the United States House of Representatives decided that the government does not need to suspect a person of a crime before the NSA can go on a fishing expedition through someone’s phone call data.

The House rejected an amendment to the Defense Appropriations bill that was co-sponsored by Representatives Justin Amash (R-MI) and John Conyers (D-MI), which would have limited NSA surveillance to specific targets of investigations, as opposed to the broad dragnet approach currently being used. The Obama administration in conjunction with Republican Congressional leadership pressured Congresspeople of all party affiliations and narrowly defeated the amendment by a vote of 205-217.

Many of our representatives here in the Garden State failed us. Three Democrats voted to permit the surveillance: Representatives Andrews (NJ-1), Sires (NJ-8), and Payne (NJ-10). And four Republicans voted to permit the surveillance to continue: Representatives LoBiondo (NJ-2), Runyan (NJ-3), Lance (NJ-7), and Frelinghuysen (NJ-11).

Representative Frank Pallone (D-6), who is currently campaigning to fill a Senate seat in October, failed to even cast a vote. The Congressman demonstrated an utter lack of leadership on one of the most important issues being discussed this summer.

The New Jersey Green Party stands firmly opposed to the growing surveillance state. The NSA phone data tracking program is part of a larger assault on people’s privacy and civil liberties. This program, along with programs such as stop-and-frisk, as well as the recently disclosed program of surveillance against Muslim communities in New Jersey by the NYPD, are part of a larger assault on the Constitutional presumption of innocence. The Fourth Amendment provides protection to people to be secure in their persons and effects against unreasonable searches. The Green Party denounces each of these programs which operate without first finding individualized suspicion.

This is not a new trend, and Progressives have reason to be concerned about expansive surveillance powers. Law enforcement generally does not take long to use its enhanced legal authority to spy on people and interfere in organizations that work for social justice. We have seen abuses of surveillance authority by law enforcement against the Labor Movement, the Civil Rights Movement (including the well-documented surveillance against Dr. King by the FBI), continuing through the movement against the war in Vietnam, and today we see broad surveillance programs against our Muslim brothers and sisters. This surveillance is an assault on our fundamental liberty to be free from oversight without prior suspicion of a crime.

Four members of the New Jersey Congressional Delegation lived up to their oath to defend the constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. Republicans Smith (NJ-4) and Garrett (NJ-5) and Democrats Pascrell Jr. (NJ-9) and Holt (NJ-12) all stood up against pressure from the White House and voted to protect our privacy. The Green Party thanks the four representatives who respect the Constitution’s protection from unreasonable surveillance.

However, to the eight representatives who succumbed to White House pressure, your mission is to represent your constituents and protect the Constitution, not to bow down to White House pressure. 


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