Lawmakers who oversee U.S. intelligence agencies say they’ll work to limit the National Security Agency’s use of U.S. phone and email records, while also broadening the government’s spying powers to allow monitoring of terror suspects who travel to the U.S. after being tracked overseas by the NSA.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, outlined proposed changes to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act during a hearing Thursday. The law has come under fire by some in Congress after disclosures by Edward Snowden, a 29-year-old former systems analyst on contract to the NSA, stirred concerns among Americans that their civil liberties are being violated.
Feinstein said legislation her committee is drafting would “strictly limit access to the ... phone metadata records, expressly prohibit the collection of the content of phone calls,” and limit the amount of time such U.S. phone-call data could be kept. Such records show the date and length of calls and the numbers dialed.
She said the committee bill also will seek to broaden the government’s ability to electronically monitor terror suspects who travel to the U.S. if they were already under surveillance overseas by the NSA. The aim of the new spying power is to close what lawmakers say is a surveillance gap between when a subject enters the U.S. — and the NSA stops spying on him — and when the FBI has built a case to permit its agents to begin following the target.
Director of National Intelligence James Clapper told the committee he was willing to consider limiting both how U.S. telephone and email data collected by NSA is used, and the amount of time it is stored. He said he’s also open to other proposed changes, such as appointing an independent official to oppose the government in hearings before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court, the secret federal court that considers all government surveillance requests.