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.)
Two of the alternative candidates for Speaker either in the race or considering it—Jason Chaffetz of Utah and Darrel Issa of California—have far better records on surveillance reform than Boehner or the now out‐of‐the‐running Kevin McCarthy of California, according to a surveillance legislation scorecard from DecideTheFuture.org. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin, the current GOP establishment choice to replace Boehner, rated a C- minus on DecideTheFuture.org’s surveillance reform scorecard. And whether he would agree to keeping Massie’s surveillance reform appropriations amendments in any final omnibus appropriations bill remains unknown at the moment.
What is clear is the battle over surveillance reform is not going away, and the next House Speaker will have no choice but to deal with the issue during the balance of this Congress and in the next one.
The Senate may yet take up and send to the House the so‐called Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA), which privacy and civil liberties groups have condemned as yet another mass surveillance bill. Looming in the next Congress is the December 2017 expiration of the FISA Amendments Act, the highly controversial legislation that has been used by NSA to collect and search the stored emails of Americans.
Thus far, there has been no Congressional investigation of the Drug Enforcement Agency’s metadata surveillance program, exposed earlier this year. In the absence of Congressional action to limit the use of cellphone tower spoofers by law enforcement, several states have passed or are considering bills restricting their use, including California, Washington, and Virginia, among others.
Given that state and local law enforcement have frequently received these devices (commonly known by the trade name “Stingray”) from the FBI, the failure of Congress to take action to thoroughly investigate the use of a range of surveillance technologies and activities only underscores the need for a comprehensive Congressional examination of the totality of U.S. government surveillance programs in the post‐9/11 era, and perhaps even going back to the post‐Church Committee period.
Whether that happens will depend in part on how successful HFC insurgents are in forcing House rules changes that allow rank‐and‐file Members to get such legislation to the House floor. To achieve that goal, they will need a Speaker willing to at least go along with, if not embrace, their agenda.