Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, D-Menlo Park, voted Wednesday in favor of an amendment to the 2014 defense spending bill that would require the National Security Agency (NSA) to limit its information-gathering to subjects of national security investigations, rather than all Americans.
The amendment, which would have defunded the NSA's domestic phone metadata program, failed by a vote of 205 to 217. The final tally was 94 Republicans and 111 Democrats in favor, and 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats opposed.
"It was never the intent of Congress in passing the Patriot Act to allow for a dragnet surveillance program that captures the communications of all Americans," said Rep. Eshoo, a former eight-year member of the House Intelligence Committee.
"I recognize that our counter-terrorism agencies need investigative tools to keep us safe, but the (Obama) Administration's indiscriminate seizure of phone records unnecessarily tramples personal privacy and civil liberties. The critical balance between national security and the constitutional rights of the American people must always be honored."
The vote follows the disclosure of information about the NSA's surveillance programs, which have been collecting both Internet data and phone records from all Americans. The NSA does this under a section of the 2001 Patriot Act that allows the government to collect such information if it certifies to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that the records are "relevant" to a foreign intelligence or international terrorism investigation.
"My vote barring the NSA from engaging in blanket surveillance programs was aimed at reforming how the NSA carries out its responsibilities to protect our country, minus a massive dragnet," Rep. Eshoo said.