House Dem calls for undiluted NSA reforms

With an eye on the Senate’s lame-duck session, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is pressing the upper chamber to vote on a bill curbing National Security Agency (NSA) authority.

“We have the first chance in more than a decade to finally place some real limits on the sweeping, unwarranted — and at times unlawful — government surveillance that many of us have fought against for the past several years,” said Nadler, a member of the Judiciary Committee, which unanimously approved the House version of the bill in May.

The full House passed the measure, the USA Freedom Act, later that month. 

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Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyThe Hill's Morning Report - Ins and outs: Powell renominated at Fed, Parnell drops Senate bid On The Money — Biden sticks with Powell despite pressure Welch to seek Senate seat in Vermont MORE (D-Vt.) has introduced a version of the bill, but changes are expected before the lame-duck Senate considers it.

“The Senate version of the USA Freedom Act contains vital reforms that are supported by a broad coalition that ranges across the political spectrum,” Nadler said.

On Monday, Nadler backed up his comments in a letter to Senate party leaders.

The bill contains “bipartisan reform measures supported by a historic alliance of stakeholders; including the White House, liberal Democrats, conservative Republicans, the intelligence community and privacy advocates,” he said in the letter.

The USA Freedom Act would end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, alter the often-secret court proceedings that oversee the intelligence activities and give companies more leeway to disclose government intelligence requests for data on their customers.

Several key senators, including Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinProgressive groups urge Feinstein to back filibuster carve out for voting rights or resign Senators call for Smithsonian Latino, women's museums to be built on National Mall Five faces from the media who became political candidates MORE (D-Calif.), have urged the chamber to vote on an information-sharing bill on cyber threats before considering NSA reform. Feinstein does back the USA Freedom Act, though, giving her conditional approval after her own NSA reform bill failed to gain wide support.

Curtailing the NSA should be top priority, Nadler said in his letter.

NSA surveillance authority, exposed through documents leaked by former contractor Edward Snowden, “exemplifies the sort of unchecked abuse of executive power our founders, along with each subsequent generation, have fought to prevent,” Nadler said.

“I urge you to work together to schedule a vote on the floor during the coming post-election session.”