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 FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinOvernight Defense: Armed Services chairman's hopes for Trump | Senators seek to change Saudi 9/11 bill | Palin reportedly considered for VA chief Lawmakers praise defense bill's National Guard bonus fix CIA head warns Trump: Undermining Iran deal would be 'disastrous' MORE (D-Calif.) and ranking member Saxby ChamblissSaxby ChamblissWyden hammers CIA chief over Senate spying Cruz is a liability Inside Paul Ryan’s brain trust MORE (R-Ga.) issued a joint statement Tuesday that called the amendment from Rep. Justin AmashJustin AmashGOP rep: Trump has 'extra-constitutional' view of presidency Flag burning is just another PR stunt for the media to cover Trump tweets about flag burning, setting off a battle MORE (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.