Senators back NSA bill, target ‘insider threats’

The Senate Intelligence Committee has advanced legislation to reauthorize funding for the National Security Agency and surveillance programs. 

The bill includes new funding for technology to combat "insider threats" and leaks of classified information.

The committee approved the legislation in a 13-2 vote late Tuesday. 

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The approval of the annual funding measure comes after leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden earlier this year revealed controversial details about the scope of the government's secret surveillance programs. 

The bill would empower the director of national intelligence to make improvements to the government's process for investigating people with security clearances, such as Snowden.

Intelligence officials say the Snowden leaks have damaged the ability of the U.S. to spy on terrorists and thwart attacks. 

The bill would create new protections for "legitimate" whistle-blowers to bring their concerns to Congress or agency leaders, the committee said.

The measure would also make the NSA director and inspector general subject to Senate confirmation.

"We recognize that budget reductions and sequestration are impacting our intelligence agencies, and Congress has a responsibility to ensure the [director of national intelligence] and other intelligence leaders have the resources and flexibility they need to protect the nation,” committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) said in a statement. 

The exact level of funding for the surveillance programs is classified.

According to documents leaked by Snowden to The Washington Post, the "black budget" for intelligence operations in 2013 was $52.6 billion, including $10.8 billion for the NSA alone. 

The funding reauthorization bill now heads to the Senate floor. The House Intelligence Committee has yet to move companion legislation.