Stop the NSA: There is a new push in Congress to end the NSA’s unconstitutional domestic surveillance programs

There may finally be a passable piece of legislation in Congress to end the National Service Agency’s bulk metadata collection program as well as add some much-needed oversight to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.

After working with the White House on compromise language, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-VT) rolled out legislation — a new USA FREEDOM Act — today that would protect Americans’ civil liberties from the NSA’s spying programs:

Leahy’s bill would prevent the possibility of that broad collection by requiring agents use specific terms in their searches.

It also requires the government to disclose the number of people caught up in its searches, declare how many of them were Americans and provides more ways for tech companies to report the number of government requests for information they receive, which firms have said is critical to restoring people’s trust in their products.

Finally, Leahy’s bill would also add a panel of special civil liberties advocates to the secretive court overseeing intelligence operations, which currently only hears arguments from the government.

In announcing the bill, Leahy trumpeted support from tech companies including Apple and Google, which have teamed up with other tech giants in the Reform Government Surveillance coalition, as well as privacy groups like the American Civil Liberties Union and the Center for Democracy and Technology.

The USA FREEDOM Act, as passed by the House of Representatives last month, falls woefully short of addressing the problems with the NSA. While the measure was solid when it was introduced, the bill was gutted and civil liberties and public interest organizations subsequently pulled their support.

Leahy indicted that the House-passed version of the USA FREEDOM Act was dead-on-arrival in the Senate. He would, instead, continue to push for a stronger version of the measure. The White House, however, wouldn’t budge, so he was forced to work up a compromise. The result, while not perfect, sounds good start, especially when one considers that the ACLU is on-board.

The biggest hurdles to passage are going to be the NSA apologists in both chambers and time. The former is always going to be a problem because there are certain members of Congress — notably Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-MI), who don’t see a problem with domestic spying.

But, with the August recess looming, time is going to be the biggest hurdle. When Congress returns in September, there’s going to be a very small window to get a big piece of legislation like this done.


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