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Leahy blasts criticism of NSA reform bill

Sen. Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Dakota Access pipeline to remain in operation despite calls for shutdown | Biden hopes to boost climate spending by B | White House budget proposes .4B for environmental justice Biden .5T budget proposes major hike in social programs Biden hopes to boost climate spending by billion MORE (D-Vt.) on Tuesday rejected criticism of his bill to limit the National Security Agency’s bulk collection of Americans’ data.

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“We’ve had groups from the NRA on the right and the ACLU on the left, they’ve all come out in favor of it,” Leahy said Tuesday on MSNBC.

“The people who know what they are talking about, not those that make political speeches, but those that know what they are talking about like the Director of National Intelligence, have come out for it,” he added

Federal agencies are currently collect a host of information about Americans’ Internet and telephone communications, including who they’ve talked to and for how long, all without a warrant.

The USA Freedom Act, due for a procedural vote Tuesday evening, aims to stop the government from gathering those large swaths of data in the general interest of national security. It would instead authorize more targeted searches. The measure would also strengthen reporting policies to shed light on how the government collects telephone records and Internet metadata.

McConnell criticized the legislation on the Senate floor Tuesday as an affront to America’s national security programs.

“I’m strongly opposed to legislation offered by [Leahy] that would end one of our nation’s critical capabilities to gather significant intelligence on terrorist threats,” the Kentucky Republican said.

“This is the worst possible time to be tying our hands behind our backs,” McConnell added.

Leahy said he was “disappointed” in McConnell for refusing to answer any questions after his critique.

“He read what was put in front of him by his staff and left,” Leahy said.

Leahy said that the bill strikes a balance between protecting Americans without forcing them to give up their privacy, adding that his bill wouldn’t prevent officials from doing anything they needed to do to protect the country.