Senators want to use Defense bill to force NSA disclosures

Three Democratic senators are pushing an amendment to the Defense authorization bill that would require more disclosures about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs. 

The amendment is sponsored by Sens. Ron Wyden (Ore.), Mark Udall (Colo.) and Barbara Mikulski (Md.), but it is unclear whether it will receive a vote. The Senate is debating the the Defense funding bill—the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)—this week.

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Carl Levin (D-Mich.) has said that the NDAA is not the appropriate venue for a debate over the NSA. 

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The senators' amendment would require the attorney general to release all Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court rulings that found that the government had violated the law or the Constitution. 

The director of national intelligence would have to submit a written report to Congress answering a series of questions about NSA surveillance. The director would have to produce a public version of the report, but would be allowed to redact sensitive information. 

The report would have to provide details about a now-defunct NSA program to track Americans' cellphone location data in bulk. 

The government would have to disclose whether it has collected Americans' communications without a warrant under a provision of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act intended to allow for the targeting of foreigners. The director of national intelligence would also have to say whether the government misrepresented its practices to the Supreme Court in a case, Clapper v. Amnesty, decided earlier this year.  

The amendment would also direct the Government Accountability Office to conduct a study on the economic impact of the recently disclosed surveillance programs.

"I’m continuing to fight for comprehensive surveillance reform, but these #NSA reform amdts to the NDAA are action we can take now," Wyden wrote in a tweet.

He is a sponsor of two bills that would rein in the NSA's power and bar the bulk collection of phone records. 

Mikulski is also pushing an amendment to the NDAA that would require Senate confirmation of the NSA director. 

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