U.S. lawmakers seek to end bulk NSA telephone records collection

WASHINGTON Wed Sep 25, 2013 8:17pm EDT

An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland. REUTERS/NSA/Handout via Reuters

An undated aerial handout photo shows the National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.

Credit: Reuters/NSA/Handout via Reuters

Related Topics

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Democratic and Republican U.S. senators introduced legislation on Wednesday to end the National Security Agency's bulk collection of Americans' communication records and set other new controls on the government's electronic eavesdropping programs.

The measure introduced by Democrats Ron Wyden, Mark Udall and Richard Blumenthal, and Republican Rand Paul, is one of several efforts making their way through Congress to rein in sweeping surveillance programs.

The Senate Intelligence Committee is holding a public hearing on Thursday when the panel's leaders are expected to discuss their surveillance reforms, the Senate Judiciary Committee is addressing the issue and several members of the House of Representatives have also introduced legislation.

"The disclosures over the last 100 days have caused a sea change in the way the public views the surveillance system," said Wyden, a leading congressional advocate for tighter privacy controls, told a news conference.

The surveillance programs have come under intense scrutiny since disclosures this spring by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden that the government collects far more Internet and telephone data than previously known.

The legislation introduced on Wednesday combines several surveillance reforms that legislators had introduced separately.

Besides banning the bulk collection of Americans' records, it would create the position of "constitutional advocate" to represent the public in the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court that oversees the eavesdropping programs.

And it would let Americans affected by the eavesdropping sue for damages in U.S. courts and allow companies to disclose more information about cooperation with government surveillance.

"These reforms are the right thing to do, but they are also essential to the public believing that the system is complying with the law," Blumenthal said.

Many members of Congress staunchly defend the surveillance programs as an essential defense against terrorist attacks, but support for change has been growing.

In a 217-205 vote in July, the House narrowly defeated an amendment to an appropriations bill that would have sharply limited the NSA's ability to collect electronic information.

The strong support for the amendment - bolstered by an unlikely alliance of liberal Democrats and libertarian Republicans - surprised many congressional observers because House leaders and members of the Intelligence Committee had strongly opposed it.

Given the level of dissent - and widespread public concern - lawmakers said they expected some reforms would be included in the National Defense Authorization Act, which Congress is due to pass late this year to authorize Defense Department programs.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Ken Wills)

FILED UNDER:
We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/
Comments (3)
DSTIEBS wrote:
Please print the Lawmakers names that voted against the amendment to the appropriations bill to limit the NSA. We need to vote them out of office!

Sep 25, 2013 9:07pm EDT  --  Report as abuse
Des3Maisons wrote:
James R. Clapper, the director of National Intelligence, admitted he lied to Congress about the NSA data collection program when he told them no such program existed. General Keith Alexander, director of the NSA and the NSA lawyers lied to Congress and the Surveillance Court about the data collection program.

WHY AREN’T THERE HEADS ROLLING AT THE TOP OF THESE AGENCIES?

WHY ISN’T ANYONE BEING CHARGED WITH CONTEMPT OF CONGRESS?

WHY ARE THE AMERICAN PEOPLE BEING TREATED LIKE THE ENEMY BY THE PRESIDENT, CONGRESS AND THE SPY AGENCIES?

See this excellent article on The Guardian website:
http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2013/sep/25/nsa-reform-fire-officials-lied

Sep 26, 2013 8:50am EDT  --  Report as abuse
Des3Maisons wrote:
See how your congressman voted to end authority for the blanket collection of records under the Patriot Act.

http://www.govtrack.us/congress/votes/113-2013/h412

Sep 26, 2013 9:06am EDT  --  Report as abuse
This discussion is now closed. We welcome comments on our articles for a limited period after their publication.