Three U.S. senators renewed their intent to drastically curb National Security Agency “dragnet surveillance” in a Tuesday op-ed, which criticized the House for passing “watered down” reform.
Kentucky Republican Rand Paul along with Democrats Ron Wyden of Oregon and Mark Udall of Colorado pledged to fight such “limited” legislation aimed at reducing the size, scope and authority of the National Security Agency in the wake of the bulk surveillance leaks by former contractor Edward Snowden.
“This is clearly not the meaningful reform that Americans have demanded, so we will vigorously oppose this bill in its current form and continue to push for real changes to the law,” the lawmakers wrote in the Los Angeles Times.
“This firm commitment to both liberty and security is what Americans — including the dedicated men and women who work at our nation’s intelligence agencies — deserve,” they said. “We will not settle for less.”
According to the senators, real bulk surveillance reform must close the loophole allowing NSA to surveil the emails of some Americans without warrants, add a special privacy advocate to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (which oversees intelligences agencies’ legal authority) and end the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records.
In its original form the U.S.A. Freedom Act contained all of those measures, all of which were compromised, edited or retracted before the bill went to the floor for a vote last month.
The privacy advocate’s position was reduced to a friend-of-the-court panel, and concerns have since been raised that the bill in its current form could actually allow for a new form of spying on Americans’ phone calls.
“Although the bill approved by the House is intended to end bulk collection, we are not at all confident that it would actually do so,” the senators wrote.
The bill is currently undergoing committee scrutiny in the upper chamber, where lawmakers across the aisle have expressed concerns over both its potential to limit important programs critical to national security, and its potential to fall short of protecting the privacy of Americans’ electronic communications.