The powers of the US intelligence agency NSA will be restricted, the House of Representatives decides. Guantanamo detainees are not to be transferred for the time being.
Guantanamo detention center in Cuba, archive photo from 2006. picture: ap
The U.S. House of Representatives on Friday approved by a clear majority a defense budget bill that would, among other things, halt transfers of Guantanamo detainees for one year and limit the powers of the NSA intelligence agency. 340 lawmakers voted in favor of the $570 billion package, which would free up money for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, among other things, while 73 voted against it.
The White House had opposed the bill in the Republican-dominated House of Representatives. This has yet to be reconciled with a version – not yet finalized – from the Democratic-dominated Senate.
After the controversial exchange of U.S. soldier Bowe Bergdahl, held in Afghanistan, for five Taliban fighters from the U.S. detention camp at Guantanamo, Republicans put a moratorium on further transfers for one year in a clause of the budget bill by not releasing the money for them.
At the same time, the bill would also impose new limits on the NSA. An unusual alliance of libertarian Republicans and liberal Democrats, for whom the previously approved USA Freedom Act did not go far enough, stipulated in it that the wiretapping service would no longer be allowed to search for specific American accounts in the intercepted communications of foreigners. Critics see this as wiretapping U.S. citizens through the back door because there is no court order for it.
The bill also prohibits the NSA from requiring technology companies to install trapdoors – secret bugs in software or hardware – that could facilitate surveillance.
Basically, the bill provides $490 billion for defense spending and a preliminary $79 billion more for missions in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere. The House rejected base closures and decommissioning of the A-10 fighter fleet, which had been called for to save money.