Vermont Democrat and Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy is “within inches” of a deal with the White House over passing National Security Agency reform.
Leahy, who sponsored the Senate bill, said Tuesday that “a whole lot of people” from intelligence agencies and law enforcement were “coming together,” and that he was ”impressed” with the Obama administration’s attempts at a compromise.
According to an aide, the senator and the White House are “within inches” of a deal that could send the USA Freedom Act, which passed in the House earlier this year, directly to the Senate floor for a vote. (RELATED: House Passes ‘Gutted’ NSA Surveillance Reform Bill)
Wisconsin Republican representative and PATRIOT Act author Jim Sensenbrenner sponsored the House version, which was widely criticized for last-minute changes influenced by the administration in May — changes that stripped the bill of some of its strongest reforms, and resulted in about half of its sponsors voting against passage.
A National Security Council spokesperson told The Hill the administration has been “actively engaged” with representatives, privacy advocates and companies “to secure Senate passage and the enactment of this critical legislation,” and that “significant progress” has been made.
“While there are a number of additional steps that must take place before this critical bill becomes law, we are encouraged by the recent progress in the Senate, and we are dedicated to achieving this Presidential priority of meaningful reform that both increases transparency and enhances privacy protections while maintaining national security,” the spokesperson said in a statement.
Silicon Valley’s biggest companies along with major privacy and civil rights organizations endorsed the bill in its original form, which significantly reigned in the powers and permissions of NSA bulk surveillance programs leaked by former intelligence contractor Edward Snowden.
After the House vote, Leahy said he intend to replace and safeguard the bill’s toughest reforms.
According to Leahy the legislation “will do two things” – create “clear cut guidelines of what [intelligence agencies] can and cannot do” and “let the American people know that their privacy is going to be protected.”
The aide to Leahy said the senator hopes to move the bill to the floor ahead of Congress’ August recess.