Democratic Rep. Tulsi Gabbard Votes To Defund NSA Spying On Americans

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Tulsi Gabbard, the liberal Democrat who represents Hawaii’s 2nd District in the U.S. House of Representatives, is also captain in the Hawaii National Guard and thus generally supports the Defense Department in whatever they ask for. Given her background and the size of the military in her home district, this is understandable. But what’s fascinating is that she does NOT extend that courtesy to the National Security Agency–the nation’s massive electronic eavesdropping service that has come under fire for spying on every American’s phone and email records.

In fact, Gabbard so opposes that spying operation–which is codenamed “PRISM,” according to revelations from former NSA analyst Edward Snowden, who leaked information on the program to the Guardian newspaper–that yesterday she voted for the Amash-Conyers Amendment, which would have radically defunded the PRISM program.

““Countless men and women from my state of Hawai‘i and all across the country have worn the uniform and put their lives on the line to protect our freedoms and our liberties,” Gabbard said in a July 24 press release. “I cannot, in good conscience, vote to take a single dollar from the pockets of hard-working taxpayers from across the country to pay for programs which infringe on the very liberties and freedoms our troops have fought and died for. Ben Franklin said, ‘They who give up liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.’”

This bill wasn’t one of those safe votes, either, where a representative can vote his or her conscience because it’s passage or defeat is a foregone conclusion. The vote on Amash-Conyers was remarkably close: 205 votes for it while 217 voted against it. It’s passage would have represented a huge blow to the Obama Administration’s apparent spy-on-everyone approach to fighting terrorism.

As for Rep. Colleen Hanabusa, the Democrat who represents Hawaii’s 1st District and wants to replace Democrat Brian Schatz (who is also a strong critic of the NSA PRISM program) in the U.S. Senate?

She voted against the amendment, according to this blog post from Ian Lind. Her reason, according to Honolulu Civil Beat, was simple:

“[Q]uick fixes [like Amash-Conyers] would have unintended consequences for the intelligence and law enforcement communities beyond the specific problems being targeted,” she said in a news release. “This issue should be the subject of a stand-alone bill that provides a complete review in an open forum involving all stakeholders, including the American public. If a thorough review shows that the law is bad, we should repeal it, not simply de-fund it.”

Given that at least one NSA official has already LIED to a Senate Committee about PRISM (and received no apparent sanction), what chance does an “open forum involving all stakeholders” actually stand?