Rep. Eric Swalwell’s support for warrantless
surveillance is nothing new.
15TH CONGRESSIONAL DISTRICT
Very few members of Congress have been more critical of President Trump than East Bay Rep. Eric Swalwell. But Swalwell was among a group of Democrats that helped pass legislation Thursday–backed by the President–to renew the National Security Agency’s authority to gather communications from telecom companies without a warrant. The action aimed a foreign targets, though, can also allow the NSA to surveil Americans who are not the subject of an investigation.
The House voted, 256-164, to extend for another six years the surveillance program. Swalwell support veered from that of the East Bay congressional caucus. Reps. Barbara Lee and Ro Khanna voted no Thursday, while Reps. Mark DeSaulnier and Jerry McNerney did not register a vote.
Swalwell’s vote may risk the support of progressive Alameda County Democrats and his constituents in the 15th congressional district (The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald skewered Swalwell’s vote on Friday). But Swalwell’s predilection toward law and order has been fairly consistent over this three terms in Congress, especially when it comes to digital government surveillance.
In early 2013, one of Swalwell’s first-ever votes backed a bill giving the government the authority to view the personal web histories of Americans. Known as Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), the proposed legislation was highly controversial and led to a social media uproar and some well-known sites going black in protest.
Shortly after came damning disclosures by NSA whitleblower Edward Snowden of widespread warrantless spying by the government on ordinary Americans. The intense spotlight on the issue forced a number of votes to stem government surveillance.
One of them was an amendment by Rep. Justin Amash in the summer of 2013 that forbid the NSA from collecting the phone records of Americans. Swalwell voted in favor of the Amash amendment. When he ran for re-election this next year, he neglected to mention his vote on CISPA and falsely maintained the Amash amendment was the only vote he ever took on the issue of privacy rights.