Senators slam agency report on NSA spying

Two senators are criticizing a government report released last week that said U.S. agencies spied on tens of thousands of Internet users around the world, arguing the disclosures still leave Americans "in the dark."

“The administration’s report is a far cry from the kind of transparency that the American people demand and deserve,” Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) said in a statement Monday.

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Franken and Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) criticized the report for failing to provide information about the total number of people affected by controversial surveillance programs and how many of those people are U.S. citizens.

The report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence — promised in August and released Friday — was the intelligence community’s first transparency report discussing the uses of foreign intelligence surveillance authorities.

According to the report, U.S. intelligence agencies used their authority under Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act to target the electronic communications of more than 80,000 foreign people, groups or organizations.

The report did not specify to what extent U.S. communications were swept up in Section 702 collection.

On the National Security Agency’s controversial phone data collection program, the agency used 423 “selectors” to search the massive database, including 248 selectors pertaining to U.S. persons.

These disclosures are not enough, Franken and Heller — co-sponsors of a Senate bill that would increase government reporting requirements around surveillance programs — said Monday.

“I recognize that this report is being offered in good faith. But it still leaves Americans in the dark,” Franken said.

“It doesn’t tell the American people enough about what information is being gathered about them and how it’s being used.”

Heller touted their bill, which would also allow companies to report more information about the scope of government requests for user data they receive.

“The American people deserve greater transparency and American companies should be able to disclose more information when it comes to privacy rights and the federal government’s surveillance activities,” Heller said.

U.S. companies should have flexibility in reporting on government surveillance, which is “critical for ensuring that our nation’s companies remain competitive in the global market,” he continued.

Some of the provisions in the surveillance reform bill from Franken and Heller are included in the original version of the USA Freedom Act, a bill from Patriot Act author Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.) and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) to rein in government surveillance.

While some transparency provisions were dropped from the House version as it moved to the House floor earlier this year, Leahy has pledged to bring up a strong surveillance reform bill in his committee — of which Heller and Franken are members — “this summer.”

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