Feinstein ‘open to’ considering NSA reform

 

Senate Intelligence Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) is willing to consider the surveillance reform bill passed by the House on Thursday.

“I have spoken with the president who is urging the Senate to pass the bill as well, and I am open to considering the legislation when the Senate returns to Washington,” she said in a statement.

Feinstein added that she is “carefully” reviewing the House's bill.

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As chairwoman of the intelligence panel, Feinstein has been one of the National Security Agency’s strongest defenders in the upper chamber. She has previously pushed for more narrow reforms to the agency’s bulk collection practices, which she has said are important for national security but may need more transparency.

Her willingness to consider the version of the USA Freedom Act passed by the House, may confirm privacy advocates’ fears that the bill had been watered down beyond recognition in recent weeks.

When approached by The Hill earlier in the day, Feinstein declined to discuss the House’s action.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), who introduced the upper chamber’s version of the reform bill, is planning to bring the bill up in his committee this summer.  

The House’s version of the bill, authored by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), would effectively end the NSA’s bulk collection and storage of records about people’s phone calls.

Initially, it was championed by civil liberties advocates and tech companies such as Google and Facebook seeking reform. But changes in recent weeks, to win over a wider swath of lawmakers and address concerns by critics who worried it would handicap the country's ability to track terrorists, caused many of them to pull their support.

When the bill passed the House 303-121 on Thursday, dozens of original co-sponsors ended up voting against the bill.