30 groups protest secret deal that strips surveillance reform from the CROmnibus


What is the “CROmnibus”? In short, it’s a mashup of Continuing Resolution (or CR) and Omnibus. They’re usually mutually exclusive – a CR is like extending government funding briefly — a band-aid of sorts — while omnibuses tend to be comprehensive funding solutions. The CROmnibus exists because Republicans want to fund the Department of Homeland Security for less time than the rest of the government (thus the CR), and are willing to fund the rest of the government through September 2015.

Come back! No more uses of the word CROmnibus.

The trick is that omnibus funding absorbs other appropriations (funding) bills when it gets sent to the Senate (or to the House). And therein lies a problem, because the strongest (if limited) surveillance reform we’ve yet to see pass in either chamber is attached to the Department of Defense’s appropriations bill. That’s its own story, but it is a remarkable success that transparency advocates should be proud and protective of.

The amendment would prohibit funding for so-called backdoor, warrantless searches of Americans’ information, collected and searched via Section 702 of FISA. It would also ban any money going toward forcing companies to install vulnerabilities in their products to make surveillance easier. Both of these things occur with little, if any, oversight, and they are central to some of the abuses revealed by Edward Snowden last year.

The amendment passed the House with overwhelming, veto-proof support – 293 yea votes. But news broke Wednesday night that House leadership would strip the amendment from the omnibus. If true – and word is that it may show up for a vote as early as Monday – it means the Senate may not have a chance to vote on it, and legislative surveillance reform will have been stalled for the entirety of this Congress.

Suffice to say, Sunlight and others are fighting to get the amendment back in, but we genuinely need support. Calling your representatives and demanding their support for this could make the difference. Use Sunlight’s free Call On Congress tool to easily call your lawmakers, or use OpenCongress to look up contact info and email their offices.

Here’s the letter:

Massie Lofgren Letter