US Lawmakers Vote Down ‘Backdoor Search Loophole’ In Surveillance Law

House lawmakers on Thursday rejected language that would have prevented US government from implementing the so-called “backdoor search loophole” in current surveillance law. The bipartisan ammendment to the annual Defense appropriations bill failed 198-222.

Reps. Thomas Massie (R-KY, 4th) and Zoe Lofgren (D-CA, 19th) introduced the amendment which would have forbidden the government from forcing companies to install backdoors in their systems for spying purposes.

The law, Section 702 of a 2008 update to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, authorizes the National Security Agency’s (NSA) PRISM and Upstream collection activities, and is aimed at foreign spies, terrorists and other targets.

“If this amendment were enacted, the Intelligence Community would not be able to look through information lawfully collected… to see if the Orlando nightclub attacker was in contact with any terrorist groups outside the United States,” Reps. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) and Lynn Westmoreland (R-Ga.) said in a letter on Wednesday. 

Earlier this year, the FBI and Apple were involved in a faceoff when the FBI sued Apple to compel the company’s engineers to create a backdoor to an iPhone used by one of the San Bernardino shooters. Apple turned down the request, leading to bickering between the two parties.

 Massie and Lofgren have made unsuccessful attempts to remove the “backdoor search” in the past. Last year, a similar bill was passed by the House, but was not included in the omnibus bill.