Senate spy panel approves annual policy bill

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The Senate Intelligence Committee unanimously approved the fiscal 2016 Intelligence Authorization Act on Wednesday, advancing the annual policy bill to the chamber floor.

The bill outlines policy for the nation’s 16 federal spy agencies, though much of it remains classified.

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“America’s security depends on our intelligence community’s ability to detect and thwart attacks on the homeland, our personnel and interests overseas, and our allies,” Committee Chairman Richard BurrRichard BurrThe Trail 2016: Hell breaks loose Burr, Ross in statistical dead heat in NC Senate race Senate panel advances spy policy bill, after House approves its own version MORE (R-N.C.) said in a statement.

“This year’s legislation arms the intelligence community with the resources they need, and reinforces congressional oversight of intelligence activities.”

Among other provisions, the legislation would require the Senate to confirm the position of the national counterintelligence executive, a current appointment post that leads counterintelligence across the U.S. government.

The bill also requires Internet companies such as social media firms to inform the government if they become aware of terrorist activity on their services.

“With the threat of terrorism greater than ever, the role of intelligence agencies to identify and analyze threats remains the best way to prevent an attack,” top committee Democrat Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinClinton’s email troubles deepen Top Dem: CIA officials thought spying on Senate ‘was flat out wrong’ Senate panel advances spy policy bill, after House approves its own version MORE (Calif.) said. “Budget constraints continue to threaten these roles, so it’s more important than ever that the committee conduct strict oversight and direct limited funds to areas where they’ll have the greatest impact.”

Other measures of the bill would require new reporting on foreign threats and develop a robust strategy for the system of satellites relied on by U.S. spies.

The focus on satellites was added as an amendment by Sens. Mark WarnerMark WarnerLawmaker bemoans tax 'buzzsaw' for on-demand economy workers Reid throws wrench into Clinton vice presidential picks Reid: 'Hell no' to VP pick from state with a Republican governor MORE (D-Va.), Angus King (I-Maine) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), they said.

"The U.S. is in danger of losing our technological edge due to our current overreliance on a big-government acquisition model,” Warner said in a statement.

The House passed its version of the Intelligence Authorization Act earlier this month, despite opposition from the White House and many Democrats.

Critics opposed the bill’s reliance on money slated for overseas military operations as well as provisions limiting the transfer of detainees from Guantánamo Bay.