White House ‘strongly supports’ NSA bill

The White House is putting its support behind legislation to end some of the country’s most controversial surveillance programs.

Ahead of the Thursday’s House vote on the USA Freedom Act, the White House on Wednesday said that it “strongly supports” the bill, which would “provide the public greater confidence in our programs and the checks and balances in the system.”

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“The bill ensures our intelligence and law enforcement professionals have the authorities they need to protect the nation, while further ensuring that individuals’ privacy is appropriately protected when these authorities are employed,” the White House added.

The Obama administration has previously praised lawmakers’ efforts to move the bill through the House Judiciary and Intelligence Committees, but the new statement of administration policy is the most vocal support it has shown so far.

The legislation, written by Patriot Act author Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), would effectively end the National Security Agency’s bulk collection and storage of records about Americans’ phone calls. Instead, private phone companies would keep that data and hand it over to government agents who had obtained a court order.

The bill would also make changes to the FBI’s use of national security letters, adjust the makeup of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and other operations that have captured public attention since being revealed by former government contractor Edward Snowden last year.

In recent weeks privacy advocates have grown increasingly suspicious that several measures were being watered down to win the support of the intelligence community and lawmakers worried about weakening the country’s ability to fight terrorists.

That change of heart seems unlikely to dissuade many House lawmakers from voting in favor of the bill, however.