Roll Call: Latest News on Capitol Hill, Congress, Politics and Elections
February 6, 2016

Tweaked NSA Bill Draws Caution From Senate Chairman

Changes to the House’s surveillance overhaul bill have moved it farther away from what Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick J. Leahy would like to see in the legislation. The bill has been set up for House debate with revised provisions on how long the government can hold data, and the scope of identifiers it could use to collect data at the beginning of an investigation.

At an FBI oversight hearing today, Leahy, D-Vt., said he’s “glad” the House is poised to act on the changed version but that he remained concerned that “some important reforms” were removed. (Read Leahy’s opening statement.)

Both the House Judiciary and House Intelligence committees backed an earlier version of the bill. But CQ Roll Call’s Rob Margetta writes that after a weekend meeting between administration officials and House leadership, the House Rules Committee — which sets the limits on floor consideration of many bills — “received a version of the bill Tuesday night that contained several substantive changes.”

Margetta describes those changes:

One change would limit how long the government could hold onto data, instructing the Justice Department to dispose of information promptly if it discovers the data is not relevant to a national security incident. But another that redefined the bill’s definition of “specific selection terms” — the pieces of data that serve as starting points for investigations — concerned privacy groups enough that they pulled their support for the measure, although they said they would not oppose its passage.

The White House issued a statement this afternoon supporting the revised House bill, saying it would ensure authorities needed for intelligence and law enforcement professionals to “protect the Nation, while further ensuring that individuals’ privacy is appropriately protected when these authorities are employed.”

Techdirt has a roundup of statements and reactions from groups.

Meanwhile, California state lawmakers have also voted on legislation on the matter.

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