Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Congress Takes up Measure to Tighten Leash on NSA Surveillance

Posted By on Wed, Jul 24, 2013 at 9:41 AM

The US Congress is expected to vote today on limiting the National Security Agency's ability to collect U.S. phone records. It would be the first vote held by the U.S. House on restricting NSA surveillance since former NSA contractor Edward Snowden leaked documents detailing the agency's PRISM program to the Guardian and the Washington Post.

The amendment to the Department of Defense funding bill was put forward by Michigan Republican Rep. Justin Amash and supported by Michigan Democrat Rep. John Conyers.

As written, the measure would prevent U.S. intelligence agencies from relying on Section 215 of the Patriot Act "to collect records, including telephone call records, that pertain to persons who are not subject to an investigation." If approved, the NSA could only collect data and records if the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court declared the surveillance was related to an individual under investigation.

The head of the National Security Agency, Gen. Keith Alexander, held separate, private meetings with Republican and Democratic lawmakers July 23 to urge them to vote against the measure.

Meanwhile, President Barack Obama's administration has made clear that it opposes the amendment, with White House press secretary Jay Carney accusing Amash of trying to "hastily dismantle one of our intelligence community's counterterrorism tools."

"This blunt approach is not the product of an informed, open, or deliberative process," Carney said in a statement released late July 23. "We urge the House to reject the Amash Amendment, and instead move forward with an approach that appropriately takes into account the need for a reasoned review of what tools can best secure the nation."

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