Senate Dems renew call for NSA reform

Some Senate Democrats are reiterating their call for President Obama to reform vast aspects of the National Security Agency’s (NSA) surveillance efforts.

In a letter on Friday, Sens. Mark Udall (D-Colo.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.) told the president to halt the collection of Americans’ phone records, reform the secretive Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and prevent warrantless searches of Americans’ communications.

"We believe you have the authority to make many of these changes now, and we urge you to do so with reasonable haste to protect both our national security and the personal rights and liberties of U.S. citizens,” they wrote.

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The letter comes a day after Udall and Wyden met with Obama as part of a larger group of lawmakers to discuss the president’s planned reforms to the agency.  

Obama is currently finishing his review of 46 recommendations to change government surveillance delivered by a White House advisory panel in December. In addition to lawmakers, the president and top White House officials have also met with civil liberties advocates and members of the intelligence community ahead of an expected announcement about the reforms, which could come as soon as next week. On Friday, White House officials are also expected to meet with leaders of top technology companies.

The senators wrote that the government should stop collecting bulk information about the duration and frequency of Americans’ calls, known as metadata. Instead, private telecommuincation companies would hold that data, and government officials would be able to search it with a court order.

They told the president that “the way to restore Americans’ constitutional rights is to end the practice of vacuuming up the phone records of huge numbers of innocent Americans every day and permit the government to obtain only the phone records of people actually connected to terrorism or other nefarious activity.”

In their letter, the three senators added that public trust in the country’s intelligence agencies has been “undermined by overly intrusive domestic surveillance programs and misleading statements made by senior officials over a period of many years.”

All three senators are members of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

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