NSA Reform Drifts Sideways In The Senate

According to Senate sources speaking to The Hill, the White House would prefer not to pass NSA reform in the coming lame duck Congressional session.

Current chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, Senator Patrick Leahy, is trying to press forward with a vote on the bill that he authored — the USA FREEDOM Act — this year. The legislation has attracted approbation from technology companies and civil groups. A bill with the same name passed the House previously, but was scorned by privacy advocates as having been neutered in its final days before its vote.

The Senate’s USA FREEDOM Act would end the bulk collection of Americans’ phone records. However, some have noted that it doesn’t go far enough in reforming Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Rep. Zoe Lofgren, at the time, said that the bill “falls short” by not addressing Section 702.

That said, there is general consensus among technology companies that the Senate bill is worth supporting — several have encouraged support for the law.

The White House’s apparent reluctance is said to be joined by that of Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, who has other priorities for the legislative session. It isn’t clear if Senator Leahy can fight the combined obstinance of the two.

The Hill quotes Benjamin Wittes of the Brookings Institution, who intimates that the White House may prefer a more intelligence community-friendly bill. And the next Congress might supply it. Given that, it seems that for the USA FREEDOM Act, it’s 2014 or bust. Something to chew on as we head into the week.