Senate Intel leaders slam House measure to cut NSA surveillance funds

The heads of the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday criticized a House amendment targeting funding for the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs.

Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and ranking member Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.) issued a joint statement Tuesday that called the amendment from Rep. Justin Amash (R-Mich.) “unwise.”

“We believe this debate in the Congressional Intelligence and Judiciary committees should continue and that any amendments to defund the program on appropriations bills would be unwise,” the senators said.

“Since the public disclosure of the business records program, the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence has explored how the program can be modified to add extra privacy protections without sacrificing its effectiveness,” they added.

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The statement was made in response to Amash’s amendment to the Defense Appropriations Bill, which would defund any surveillance program that doesn’t explicitly limit data collection of people not under investigation.

Amash, a libertarian-leaning lawmaker, has been a vocal critic of the NSA’s surveillance operations.

Disclosures from former government contractor Edward Snowden revealed the agency’s collection of phone and Internet traffic to identify potential terror threats.

Amash’s NSA amendment was ruled in order by the House Rules Committee on Tuesday night, after House Republican leaders had initially bristled at giving it a vote.

The NSA is quickly ramping up its lobbying efforts against the bill.

NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander is heading to Capitol Hill Tuesday afternoon for a members-only briefing set up by the House Intelligence Committee, according to an invitation obtained by The Hill.