Feinstein’s NSA ‘reform’ bill would expand snooping powers

Friday, September 27, 2013
By Paul Martin

September 27, 2013

A bipartisan group of US senators is trying to ban the NSA’s blanket surveillance program in a radical bill proposed to the Senate Intelligence Committee. But a milder bill from chairwoman Diane Feinstein would sanction more snooping on US citizens.

Thursday’s Committee hearing on reforming the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) reviewed the two rival bills in an effort to find a balance between security and privacy. The Committee is expected to have further lively debate on the proposed legislation next week, before the bill is sent for consideration by the full Senate.

‘In the nation’s best interest’

Two members of the Intelligence Committee, Democrats Ron Wyden (D-Ore) and Mark Udall (D-Colo), along with fellow senators Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn) and Rand Paul (R-Ky) tabled a bill Wednesday that would drastically cut the NSA’s powers, in particular banning the controversial mass call log collection program, which allows the NSA to log and record all phone conversations in the US.

At Thursday’s hearing, three generals representing the US secret services had to face a barrage of awkward questions, but refused to give up total surveillance, claiming it served national interests and helped to prevent terrorist attacks.

Both Director of National Intelligence James Clapper and National Security Agency director Keith Alexander testified that US spying agencies were merely logging all phone calls and e-mails inside the US, without actually reading the e-mails and and listening to the calls without a court order. But the critical senators seemed unconvinced.

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