NSA’s extensive spying on Americans headed for increased restrictions

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.,center, talks with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, left, and Deputy Attorney General James Cole on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Senate Intelligence Committee Vice Chairman Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga.,center, talks with Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, left, and Deputy Attorney General James Cole on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Leading senators unveiled proposed changes to the way the National Security Agency gathers U.S. records in its hunt for overseas terrorists or spying targets, and top intelligence officials said they would cooperate to try to win back the public trust, following disclosures about the extensive NSA collection of telephone and email records of millions of Americans.

The Senate Intelligence Committee‘s bipartisan leadership used a hearing Thursday to promote legislation to change the Federal Intelligence Surveillance Act.

The lawmakers seek to trim NSA’s authority to access and analyze U.S. phone records and provide new protections to Americans’ privacy. They also want to broaden the government’s spying powers to allow monitoring of terror suspects who travel to the U.S. after being tracked overseas by the NSA.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., chairwoman of the committee, said the legislation would “strictly limit access to the … phone metadata records, expressly prohibit the collection of the content of phone calls” and limit the amount of time such U.S. phone call data could be kept.

She said the bill, which could be passed by her committee as early as next week, would “change but preserve” bulk record collection.

Such records show the date and length of calls and the numbers dialed.

Feinstein’s proposed legislation would not stop the bulk collection of telephone and email records. A separate bipartisan group of four senators unveiled legislation earlier this week to end those bulk collections.

One of those senators, Mark Udall, D-Colo., challenged the head of the NSA, Gen. Keith Alexander, on just how far his agency could go when gathering those records.

“Is it the goal of the NSA to collect the phone records of all Americans?” Udall asked at Thursday’s hearing.

“Yes, I believe it is in the nation’s best interest to put all the phone records into a lockbox that we could search when the nation needs to do it. Yes,” Alexander replied.

Udall’s counterpart on the committee in proposing more stringent limits, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asked Alexander whether the NSA had ever collected or made plans to collect Americans’ cellphone signals to track the movements of individual callers.

Alexander answered both times that the NSA was not collecting such data and would have to ask for court approval if it wanted to.

Questioned further, he cited a classified version of the letter that was sent to senators and said, “What I don’t want to do … is put out in an unclassified forum anything that’s classified.”

Wyden promised to keep asking.

The testy exchange at the hearing illustrated the wider tension that has grown between the public and the U.S. intelligence community since the disclosures of widespread NSA collection of Americans’ telephone and email records by a former NSA systems analyst, Edward Snowden.

Feinstein and the committee’s top Republican, Sen. Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, defended U.S. intelligence efforts, as did Alexander and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, who insisted that while bulk U.S. records are collected, analysts don’t listen in on individual Americans’ phone calls or read their emails without a court order.

Clapper told the committee he was willing to consider limiting both how U.S. telephone and email data collected by NSA is used and the amount of time it is stored.

He said he’s also open to other changes, such as appointing an independent official to oppose the government in hearings before the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the secret federal panel that considers all government surveillance requests.

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Follow Kimberly Dozier on Twitter at http://twitter.com/kimberlydozier
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Copyright  © 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

Copyright  © 2013 Capitol Hill Blue

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7 Responses to "NSA’s extensive spying on Americans headed for increased restrictions"

  1. Joe Keegan  September 27, 2013 at 8:56 am

    I wonder if NSA ever analyzed any Senators’ office and home telephone and email records?

    • Carl Nemo **==  September 27, 2013 at 11:44 am

      Does the sun rise in the east…? Do bears sh*t in the woods…? You betcha Joe Keegan.

      In fact in past times the FBI was the worst offender of such politically motivated nonsense under J. Edgar Hoover looking to ensure support from successive President’s. Some of the worst promoters of such surveillance were Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard M. Nixon up to our modern era statist leaders.

      Just research the subject. I can’t post a host of links to support my allegations.

      When it comes to politics and the maintenance of their power base, nothing is sacred. The Constitution is truly treated like a “g-damned piece of paper” whether said or unsaid.

      The NSA and CIA charter only allows them to monitor offshore communications and activities as in the CIAs’ case with the FBI tasked for domestic surveillance.

      Starting with the Oklahoma City bombing and beyond these agencies started to work evermore hand in hand in a more coordinated fashion and especially so since 9/11.

      The CIA has been caught many times over the past number of decades for having engaged in domestic surveillance and counterintel activities against American citizens.

      People need to get it in their heads we are now dealing with a rogue government for which nothing is sacred other than the maintenance of the power base with these agencies as their tools for oppression.

      We’ve only witnessed previews of coming attractions with even more nightmarish scenarios to unfold in the future as societal decorum breaks down due to our obscene debt and employment issues.

      Savvy citizens best gird themselves for the unraveling of this once great Republic.

      Carl Nemo **==

      • Joe Keegan  September 27, 2013 at 12:24 pm

        Carl, the problem is military involvement in civilian affairs, and that is a problem for a continued “free democracy.” Who owns the military?

  2. Carl Nemo **==  September 27, 2013 at 11:24 am

    I’ve always enjoyed CHB’s choice of photo’s to support an article. As it’s said a picture is worth a thousand words.

    What I see here is three statist schemers figuring out to how to conduct business as usual in spades.

    Whatever legislation is wrought from this NSA flap it will ensure that they not only will surveil as usual, but so too in spades. They’ll have exceptions within the new law that in fact will facilitate even more aggressive monitoring.

    Our now, totally corrupt and compromised leadership is fearful of “We the People” and not some offshore band of terrorists.

    They’ve raided the castle’s keep, virtually placing this nation in ‘debt chains’ for starters and not satisified with that want us to kneel before them as their broken, abject tax slaves. They are elitists to the core, living the good life on our tax dime and time.

    Seemingly we best know who our betters are…no?! / : |

    Carl Nemo **==

    • Joe Keegan  September 27, 2013 at 12:14 pm

      Yeah, it’s unfortunate. It’s not the same country that we knew.

  3. Wayne K Dolik  September 27, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    I think we should make these spying “fixers” pee in a bottle to see what they are on. Send it to the lab!You Betcha, Joe Keegan!

    • Joe Keegan  September 27, 2013 at 12:27 pm

      Wayne, I suspect that they don’t even have names for the stuff, but I’ll guess that it enhances whatever psychopathic tendencies that they may have.

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