(…) this amendment only fixes two specific problems. It stops the very questionable use of “backdoor searches” of information collected under the Section 702 program. This is the very questionable setup by which the NSA spies on Americans while insisting that they don’t actually spy on Americans. It also blocks the NSA from mandating that any technology companies create backdoors in their software or hardware to enable wiretapping (such as the NSA forcing Skype to no longer be encrypted end-to-end).
In many ways, this is more important as a symbolic gesture than for the specifics — but it should have a much wider impact as well. This is the first time that Congress has overwhelmingly voted to defund an NSA program. Last year’s Amash Amendment came very, very close to defunding a different program (the Section 215 bulk records collection program), but by passing by an overwhelming margin, this vote is a pretty big sign that the House (on both sides of the aisle) is not happy with how the NSA has been spying on Americans. As mentioned above, it’s also a big slap in the face to the White House and certain members of the House leadership who conspired to water down the USA Freedom Act a few weeks ago, stripping it of a very similar provision to block backdoor searches.
This amendment still have to pass the Senate and White House, so it’s far from certain it will pass in it’s current form, or at all. If it does, I’m not really optimistic about the NSA really caring what the law makers say at all. My guess is that the NSA will simply continue as before and just lie about it, as usual.