Leahy demands Senate action on NSA reform

The author of a Senate bill to rein in the National Security Agency is forcefully demanding that his legislation get a floor vote, when lawmakers return to Washington next month.

“When the Senate returns next month, it must swiftly take up and pass the USA Freedom Act,” Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyAppropriators warn White House against clawing back foreign aid House panel investigating decision to resume federal executions Graham moves controversial asylum bill through panel; Democrats charge he's broken the rules MORE (D-Vt.) said in a statement on Friday. 

“There is no excuse for inaction, as the important reforms in this bipartisan bill are strongly supported by the technology industry, the privacy and civil liberties community, and national security professionals in the intelligence community,” he added.


“The public has made clear where it stands on this issue, and it is time for senators to do the same.”

Leahy’s call comes a day after his counterpart in the lower chamber, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), said the Senate “must pass” the USA Freedom Act in coming weeks.

Earlier in the week, Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), a major critic of the NSA, sat down with a number of tech executives to push for reform to the country’s spy agencies.

Without changes, the U.S. could “end up breaking the Internet,” Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt warned

“These calls for action are loud and clear and cannot be ignored,” Leahy said in his statement on Friday.

Despite the broad support for the bill from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, the Obama administration, technology companies and many civil liberties organizations, Senate leadership has yet to indicate a path forward for the bill. Its future remains one of the biggest questions heading into the lame duck after the midterm elections.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) office did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Hill.

Some members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have opposed the bill, and its fate could rest with that panel’s chairwoman, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). She has previously expressed skepticism about Leahy’s legislation but has said she is committed to getting something done, more than a year after revelations from Edward Snowden made the NSA a household name.

The USA Freedom Act would end the NSA’s bulk collection of Americans’ phone records, make some changes to the secretive court overseeing intelligence activities and give companies more ability to disclose how much information about their users they hand over to the government.