[ED NOTE: An abridged version of this article was republished by the Ventura County Star on 8/17/2013.]

On Aug. 1, my Congressional Representative, Julia Brownley (D-CA-26), forwarded a letter to me in response to a query as to why she was amongst those responsible for the recent narrow defeat (205 - 217) of Amash-Conyers, a bi-partisan amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations bill that would have brought an abrupt halt to the NSA's warrantless blanket collection of Americans' phone records.

The response did not address the actual substance of Amash-Conyers. Instead, her complaints about the measure were procedural, as she explained...

I have worked vigorously to protect civil liberties over my entire career in public service, and will continue to do so. However, we must address the very complex issues related to our privacy, rapidly advancing technology, and threats to our national security that exploit these advancements, in a deliberative, thoughtful, and responsible way with vigorous public debate. Crafting legislation that deals with such foundational issues cannot be accomplished in an amendment to an appropriations bill, as was the strategy with the Amash amendment. Furthermore, it allowed for only fifteen minutes of debate, which is not acceptable for such an important and complex issue that the public and their elected representatives rightfully care so deeply about.

While there's some legitimacy in Brownley's objection to an arbitrary 15-minute time limit for debate on such an important matter, the issue is not as "complex" as the first-term Congresswoman characterizes it. The one paragraph amendment, and its implications --- unlike the PATRIOT Act, FISA and the opaque secret interpretations of those laws she was effectively voting to keep in place, as is --- were fairly straightforward, in fact...

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