Feinstein: 'Open' to Considering House NSA Reform Bill

Image: Feinstein: 'Open' to Considering House NSA Reform Bill

Friday, 23 May 2014 07:35 AM

By Melanie Batley

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Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein said she is willing to consider the surveillance reform bill passed by the House on Thursday, which would end the National Security Agency's bulk data collection of phone records.

According to The Hill, the California Democrat, who has so far been one of the strongest defenders of the NSA's surveillance program, has previously pushed for narrower reforms. She has acknowledged there may be a need for greater transparency given the privacy concerns that were triggered by Edward Snowden's revelations about the program.

"I have spoken with the president who is urging the Senate to pass the bill as well, and I am open to considering the legislation when the Senate returns to Washington," Feinstein said in a statement, adding that she is "carefully" reviewing it.

The USA Freedom Act passed in the House with bipartisan support, and is the most significant scaling down of U.S. surveillance in more than three decades. It now heads to the Senate for consideration.

Under the legislation, the government would need to obtain, on a case-by-case basis, a court order from the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court before it could search phone records for antiterrorism purposes, Fox News reported.

In emergencies, however, the government could have access to data for up to seven days before getting court approval. The intelligence court must also publish its most significant opinions, providing a new level of transparency for the public.

Despite the widespread support for the measure, some last-minute changes negotiated with the White House caused many civil liberties groups, technology companies, and lawmakers from both parties to withdraw their backing of the legislation. They said the bill had been watered down and had loopholes for the government to interpret the scope of its surveillance too widely.

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