Senator Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy introduced a bill yesterday that is designed to place controls over intelligence agency snooping without compromising security. The 72-page bill combines parts of proposals from other senators who have long sought to control the extended government reach that comes from provisions of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the Patriot Act. But can it pass both Senate and House to become law? Unknowncountry sources on Capitol Hill tell us that the bill has some chance of passing the Senate, but in an amended form. There would be further softening needed to get it through the House of Representatives.
The bill drew cosponsorships from Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.).
Co-sponsor Lee said the bill “will narrow surveillance authorities where appropriate and help provide the necessary accountability to ensure that Americans’ constitutional rights are respected.”
The bill would sunset the FISA Amendments Act passed last year that extended the ability of the government to collect records of phone and digital communications in December of 2015 instead of December 2017.
If the government wanted to mass-sweep communications records as it is doing now, the bill would require intelligence authorities to show the record search as relevant to an authorized investigation that also has a link to a foreign agent, power or group. It would also require more detail in roving wiretap requests that can tap the lines of any telephone a targeted suspect uses.
The bill would also require public reporting on government surveillance’s effect on Americans’ privacy and demand audits of the Patriot Act.
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