US Senate fails to move forward on NSA reform bill

The vote on the USA Freedom Act could mean NSA reform is dead until next year

The U.S. Senate has voted against a bill that would rein in the National Security Agency's bulk collection of telephone records within the country, possibly killing any NSA reforms until next year.

Supporters of the USA Freedom Act, in a Senate vote late Tuesday, failed to get the 60 votes needed to end debate and move toward a final vote on the legislation. Fifty-eight senators voted to end debate, while 42 voted against it.

While supporters said the legislation is needed to restore public trust in U.S. intelligence services, opponents said the NSA's widespread collection of U.S. phone records is needed to keep the country safe from terrorism.

The legislation, sponsored by Senator Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, would have "gutted" the NSA phone records collection program at a time when the U.S. faces major threats from homegrown terrorists, said Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican. If the U.S. has another terrorist attack, "the first question we will be asked is, why didn't we know about it, and why didn't we prevent it?" he said.

Supporters "cannot cite a single example of this program ever being abused," Rubio said. "We are dealing with a theoretical [privacy] threat."

Senator Mike Lee, a Utah Republican, countered that the bill is needed to restore confidence in U.S. intelligence gathering services, after the public learned about widespread surveillance programs through leaks by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden. The public is concerned that the NSA "had been collecting and storing enormous amounts of information about American citizens," he said. "The data collection at issue was not limited to those suspected of terrorist activity."

Leahy criticized opponents of the bill for using "scare tactics" to defeat the legislation. He promised to keep fighting for NSA reforms.

The bill had support from President Barack Obama's administration and a wide range of U.S. tech companies and civil rights groups.

The Senate bill would require the NSA to use specific targeting terms when collecting U.S. telephone records, and would require the government to issue reports on the number of people targeted in surveillance programs.

It would give communications providers options for how to report the number of surveillance requests they receive, and require the U.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court to appoint a panel of advocates to argue in support of individual privacy and civil liberties during consideration of surveillance requests.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the Good Gear Guide newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags U.S. SenatetelecommunicationU.S. Foreign Intelligence Surveillance CourtU.S. National Security AgencylegislationgovernmentBarack ObamaPatrick LeahyprivacyMike LeeMarco RubiosecurityEdward Snowden

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?