Nov. 1, 2013
Jonathon M. Seidl
WASHINGTON (AP) — Leaders of a Senate panel that oversees U.S. intelligence issues said Thursday it has approved a plan to scale back how many American telephone records the National Security Agency can sweep up. But critics of U.S. surveillance programs and privacy rights experts said the bill does little, if anything, to end the daily collection of millions of records that has spurred widespread demands for reform.
Legislation by the Senate Intelligence Committee, which was approved by an 11-4 vote, would increase congressional and judicial oversight of intelligence activities. It also would create 10-year prison sentences for people who access the classified material without authorization, according to a statement released by committee chairwoman Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., the panel’s top Republican.
Just how far it would scale back the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records was unclear.
The statement said the plan would ban bulk collection of records “under specific procedures and restrictions.” Chambliss spokeswoman Lauren Claffey said some of the telephone metadata collection would continue, so long as intelligence officials followed rules for how it can be used.
Only certain people would have access to the phone data, according to the bill. It also would bar the NSA from obtaining the content of the phone calls. The current program only allows the NSA to collect phone numbers and times of calls and cannot listen in on phone calls without a warrant from a secret court.