Feinstein vows to kill Leahy's NSA bill

Two powerful Senate Democrats are poised for a battle over the National Security Agency's surveillance powers.

At a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing Wednesday, Chairman Patrick LeahyPatrick Joseph LeahyDemocrats introduce bill to rein in Trump's power under Insurrection Act Murkowski, Mattis criticism ratchets up pressure on GOP over Trump House punts on FISA, votes to begin negotiations with Senate MORE (D-Vt.) said he will push legislation to end the NSA's controversial program to collect records on all U.S. phone calls. He argued that the program invades Americans' privacy rights while doing little to thwart terrorist attacks. 

But Sen. Dianne FeinsteinDianne Emiel FeinsteinGOP chairmen stake out turf in Obama-era probes Rosenstein takes fire from Republicans in heated testimony Democrats aim to amend Graham subpoena to include Trump allies MORE (D-Calif.), the chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, argued that the phone data program is critical for protecting national security.

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"I will do everything I can to prevent this program from being canceled," Feinstein said during the hearing.

She suggested that if the program had been in place in 2001, it could have prevented the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. She explained that in 2001, intelligence officials had vague fears of an impeding attack but did not have enough information to do anything about it. 

"That can never be allowed to happen in the United States of America again," Feinstein said. 

She acknowledged that leaks about the extent of the NSA's surveillance activities have eroded public trust in the agency, and she said some reforms are needed. 

She is preparing her own legislation that would require more transparency about the NSA's activities but would preserve the NSA's bulk collection of phone data. 

The program collects records, such as phone numbers, call times and call durations, but not the contents of the conversations. 

But Leahy argued that proposals like Feinstein's don't go far enough to protect Americans' privacy.

"Additional transparency and oversight are important," Leahy said. "But I believe we have to do more."

Sen. Mike LeeMichael (Mike) Shumway LeeHillicon Valley: Facebook employees speak up against content decisions | Trump's social media executive order on weak legal ground | Order divides conservatives The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Trump tweets as tensions escalate across US GOP deeply divided over Trump's social media crackdown MORE (R-Utah) echoed Leahy's call to rein in the NSA's phone data collection.

“The Fourth Amendment’s protection against ‘unreasonable searches and seizures’ is designed to prevent against precisely the kind of suspicionless fishing expeditions that the government is currently carrying out under its telephony metadata collection program," Lee said.

But Sen. Jeff SessionsJefferson (Jeff) Beauregard SessionsMcCabe, Rosenstein spar over Russia probe Rosenstein takes fire from Republicans in heated testimony Rosenstein defends Mueller appointment, role on surveillance warrants MORE (R-Ala.) appeared to side with Feinstein, arguing that people have little privacy interest in their phone records.

"The records are in the possession of the phone company. They're the phone companies' records — they're not your personal records," Sessions said.

Sen. Lindsey GrahamLindsey Olin GrahamBill aims to help farmers sell carbon credits Graham postpones Russia probe subpoena vote as tensions boil over Graham pushes back on Mattis criticism of Trump: 'You're missing something here, my friend' MORE (R-S.C.) also expressed concern that ending the program would be a return to a "pre-9/11 mentality."