Senate Dems introduce NSA amendment

Senate Democrats filed an amendment to the national defense bill Wednesday that would require more transparency on national surveillance programs.

Sens. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Mark Udall (D-Colo.) and Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) introduced the amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which authorizes more than $625 billion in defense spending for the Pentagon.

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Wyden said their amendment would require the administration to respond to unanswered questions from lawmakers about the domestic surveillance program that collected phone data on U.S. citizens. He said the amendment would also make public decisions by the “secret court” that approves data collection under the National Surveillance Act (NSA) programs.

Udall and Wyden said they were using the amendment to “jump start” debate on the larger issue and legislation that’s been introduced since reports leaked NSA privacy violations. They said their amendment was needed because the public trust has been “eroded.”

Senate Armed Service Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) asked lawmakers to withhold from introducing NSA-related amendment to NDAA because the issue is so massive and controversial.

Lawmakers are rushing to complete work on the bill by Thanksgiving so that House and Senate conferees would have time to report back to both chambers before the end of the year. Congress has passed an NDAA bill for 51 straight years.

The bill also gives an across the board 1 percent pay raise for services members, establishes protections for victims of sexual assault and allows the transfer of Guantánamo Bay detainees to the United States for trial or foreign countries.

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