Intelligence chairmen ask Obama for NSA reform bill

The leaders of the House and Senate Intelligence committees told President Obama on Friday that they supported his plans to reform surveillance at the National Security Agency (NSA) but wanted draft legislation to finalize the measures.

“We strongly agree with his comments in support and praise of the professionals in our intelligence community who do this work while upholding the civil liberties and privacy rights of all Americans,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Rep. Mike Rogers (R-Mich.) said in a joint statement after Obama’s speech.

“We encourage the White House to send legislation with the president’s proposed changes to Congress so they can be fully debated.”

In his speech on Friday, Obama said that it was “important” to preserve the NSA’s ability to develop intelligence from records about phone calls, known as metadata.

Critics of the spy agency’s surveillance on both sides of the aisle have said that the program intrudes on personal privacy and should be ended.

Feinstein and Rogers have disagreed, and urged the president to keep the program running.

“We have carefully reviewed this program and have found it to be legal and effective,” they said.

Obama did announce some new measures to check the NSA’s use of the phone records database. Instead of allowing federal officials to search the records at their own discretion, as is currently the case, the president said that agents will need to get approval from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, which gives legal authority for spy actions.

The lawmakers said that the approval process needs to be sped up so that it does not take days to get a request granted by the secretive court.

Members of Congress have largely come out in support of the president’s plan to rein in some aspects of the NSA. The agency’s fiercest critics, however, said that the reforms amounted to mere window dressing.

Supporters and opponents alike will have more time to air their opinions in coming days.

On Sunday, Both Feinstein and Rogers will appear on NBC’s “Meet the Press" to talk about the proposed NSA reforms and other issues.