Democratic senators to propose bill limiting NSA

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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Two Senate Democrats opposed to a recently revealed National Security Agency surveillance program are set to propose a bill Monday limiting the program’s scope and access to phone records.

The bill would require the NSA to provide specific evidence of a terrorist connection to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (the federal court that approves secret warrants for defense intelligence purposes) before getting access to private cell-phone data.

Democratic Sens. Mark Udall from Colorado and Ron Wyden from Oregon, both members of the Senate Intelligence Committee, co-wrote the bill, which will be proposed in the Senate Monday, according to an NBC interview with Udall on Sunday.

On “Meet the Press,” Udall said he was skeptical about the legal section of the program allowing the agency to collect phone data from service providers.

“I don’t think collecting millions and millions of Americans phone calls … is making us any safer,” he said.

Udall and Wyden have been outspoken critics of the surveillance programs leaked by 29-year-old former NSA contractor Edward Snowden two weeks ago. The programs collect vast amounts of cell phone and Internet “metadata” use by private citizens from companies like Google and Verizon.

“I think it’s ultimately perhaps a violation of the fourth amendment. I think we ought to have this debate,” Udall said. “It’s important that the American public know what’s being done in their name.”

The Colorado senator also noted he believed PRISM, the Internet data collection program, has been effective in monitoring terrorist threats overseas.

Also on “Meet the Press” Sunday, Republican Sen. Saxby Chambliss from Georgia, a supporter of the NSA programs, said of Snowden, “If he’s not a traitor, he’s pretty darn close to it.”

Snowden, believed to be currently residing in Hong Kong, may face extradition and prosecution for leaking classified documents detailing the programs.

“There’s no question about it. We know now that because of his disclosure, the terrorists, the bad guys around the world, are taking some different tactics, and they know a little bit more about how we’re gathering information on them,” Chambliss said. “And I think it’s important that we bring him to justice.”

A similar amendment to the Patriot Act’s section 215, the portion of the bill authorizing the programs, passed in 2005 with support from Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel and President Barack Obama, while both were still in the Senate.

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