On Tuesday, July 29, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced legislation that would reign in the surveillance powers of the National Security Agency (NSA) and make its activities more transparent.
According to media reports, Leahy’s legislation is an amended and much stronger version of the U.S.A. Freedom Act that passed the U.S. House of Representatives in May. The bill seeks to address concerns brought about by civil liberties groups — including the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression — and tech companies, and it is the result of “extensive negotiations,” with the White House, as reported by the New York Times.
Both the House and Senate version of the Freedom Act curtail the NSA’s ability to systematically collect the phone records of American citizens, the Times noted. These records would remain with phone companies unless the government requested specific data linked to a terrorism suspect.
However, Leahy’s version strengthens this provision by stipulating that a request for data records cannot be simply based on a broad geographic region — the selection term must “narrowly limit the scope of the tangible things sought to the greatest extent reasonably practical,” the Times reported.
The Senate version would also demand that the NSA disclose how many people’s data they have collected and if they are American, and it would add a panel of civil liberties advocates to the court that oversees intelligence operations, according to The Hill.
In a July 27 editorial, the New York Times urged the Senate to pass the bill, saying it “represents a breakthrough in the struggle against the growth of government surveillance power.”