Feinstein’s Senate Committee Defends NSA Phone Surveillance, Pushes Bill to Retain It
Members of the Senate Intelligence Committee made it clear this week that they see no reason to halt the National Security Agency’s controversial program that collects records of Americans’ phone calls.
Led by the panel’s chair, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California), a majority of the committee indicated during a hearing on Thursday that they want the NSA to keep using the once-secret program, but under certain conditions.
Feinstein and the committee’s top Republican, Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, plan to draft new legislation by next week that would require the NSA to file public reports on the calling log database.
The bill would also mandate that the agency reduce the number of years that it stores the database’s contents. Currently, the NSA says that it stores the records for five years.
In addition, Feinstein wants the Senate to have confirmation authority over new NSA directors.
At the same time, the Democratic lawmaker is willing to broaden the agency’s power to wiretap without court approval a foreigner’s cellphone for at least one week when that person travels to the United States.
Another provision would demand that the NSA send lists of the phone numbers it searches, along with explanations for doing so, to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court for review.
Critics of the NSA’s domestic surveillance have called for ending the phone-records program altogether. These advocates include two members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Democrats Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado, who have introduced a tougher reform bill.
But it appears unlikely Wyden’s bill will get past Feinstein’s committee, since Feinstein says the call log program is legal and “necessary for our nation’s security,” according to The New York Times.
To Learn More:
Senators Push to Preserve N.S.A. Phone Surveillance (by Charlie Savage, New York Times)
Feinstein Outlines NSA Changes (by Brendan Sasso and Kate Tummarello, The Hill)
“Independent Experts” Reviewing NSA Spying Have Ties to Intelligence Community (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)
Left and Right Unite to Sue NSA over Telephone Records Surveillance (by Matt Bewig, AllGov)
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