(Adds reaction from technology industry, details on bill)
By Doina Chiacu and Joseph Menn
WASHINGTON, July 29 Senator Patrick Leahy
introduced legislation on Tuesday to ban the U.S. government's
bulk collection of Americans' telephone records and Internet
data and narrow how much information it can seek in any
The bill, which has White House backing, goes further than a
version passed in May by the U.S. House of Representatives in
reducing bulk collection and immediately drew warmer response
from privacy advocates and technology companies.
Revelations last year by former National Security Agency
contractor Edward Snowden prompted President Barack Obama to ask
Congress in January to rein in the bulk collection and storage
of records of millions of U.S. domestic telephone calls.
Many American technology companies also have been clamoring
for changes after seeing their international business suffer as
foreign governments worried they would collect data and hand it
over to U.S. spy agencies.
"If enacted, this bill would represent the most significant
reform of government surveillance authorities since Congress
passed the USA Patriot Act 13 years ago," said Leahy, the
Democratic chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, said on
the Senate floor.
Congress leaves for a five-week break on Friday, and it was
unclear if lawmakers would take on the legislation before
Leahy proposed greater limits on the terms that analysts use
to search databases held by phone companies such as Verizon
Communications Inc or AT&T Inc.
The bill, called the USA Freedom Act, would prohibit the
government from collecting all information from a particular
service provider or a broad geographic area, such as a city or
area code, Leahy's office said.
It would expand government and company reporting to the
public and direct the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court,
which reviews intelligence collection inside U.S. borders, to
appoint advocates on privacy and civil liberties issues.
Leahy's measure "is an improvement on the House-passed
version at every step," said Harley Geiger, senior counsel for
the Center for Democracy and Technology, a nonprofit advocacy
Many other civil liberties and technology groups endorsed
The Information Technology Industry Council, with such
members as Google Inc, Facebook Inc, Microsoft
Corp and IBM Inc, said passing the bill would
mean saving U.S. jobs dependent on an open Internet by
"effectively putting an end to bulk collection."
Several groups called for additional steps, noting that the
bill left intact the presidential order guiding collection
overseas and also section 702 of the FISA Amendments Act of
2008, which allows broad collection in the United States of
email to, from or about foreign targets.
"This is a marathon, not a sprint, and we have miles left to
go," said Laura W. Murphy, Washington legislative director for
the American Civil Liberties Union.
Leahy acknowledged there was more work to be done, saying
"I'd like to get most of what we need, then work on the rest."
The Senate bill would end the bulk business-records
collection of phone records authorized by Section 215 of the USA
Patriot Act, enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
It instead would authorize searches for call records "two
hops" from a search term and limits the types of search terms.
The records indicate connections and duration of calls but do
not include content.
Leahy's bill would require the government to report the
number of individuals whose information has been collected. It
gives companies four options to report on the number of
government requests they get.
National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said Leahy
had done "remarkable work" balancing security and privacy
concerns in the bill.
(Additional reporting by Roberta Rampton and Alina Selyukh;
editing by Lisa Von Ahn, Jonathan Oatis and Bernard Orr)