Report: Senators eyed NSA reforms in 2011

 

The Senate Intelligence Committee secretly considered alternatives to the National Security Agency’s metadata program in 2011, according to the Associated Press

Lawmakers weighed options that were summarized in a classified NSA analysis they reviewed in closed committee meetings, the AP's report said.

One proposal was to move the metadata out of the government’s hands, and allow phone companies to keep Americans’ phone records. 

On Tuesday, President Obama announced such a proposal that allows phone companies to retain the records, and requires intelligence officials to obtain a warrant from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to search them.

Three years ago, Senate lawmakers decided not to push any of the alternatives, two government officials told the AP. 

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Lawmakers would have had a hard time advancing legislation that would change the program because it was classified at the time, as was their debate about it. 

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), the report said, preferred the existing NSA’s bulk collection program in 2011 over other alternatives. Feinstein has served as chairwoman of the committee since 2009. 

Since Edward Snowden’s leaks disclosed the scope of the NSA's domestic eavesdropping program last June, Feinstein has defended it. 

After Obama made the announcement on Tuesday from Europe, Feinstein said that she is open to reform.

“I believe the president’s plan is a worthy effort. I have said before that I am open to reforming the call records program as long as any changes meet our national security needs and address privacy concerns, and that any changes continue to provide the government with the means to protect against future terrorist attacks,” she said in a statement.

She said she would schedule a hearing to assess Obama’s proposal as well as a bill lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee announced that would implement the changes.