The Senate on Wednesday rejected the Obama administration’s proposed reforms to the NSA’s surveillance program, saying the president’s reforms would not improve the privacy protections that have made it such a valuable tool for law enforcement and intelligence agencies.
Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called the administration’s proposal “a recipe for failure.”
Sen. Dianne Feinstein Dianne Emiel FeinsteinGrassley asks FBI to expand investigation into Russian interference in 2016 election Kavanaugh’s fate rests with Sen. Collins How Flake came to lose faith in Kavanaugh MORE (D) blasted the proposed amendments as “overreaching” and “an attack on civil liberties” and said the legislation would not “encourage a new era of surveillance.”
Feinstein also called on the Obama White House to release the draft of its proposal and to “show it to the American people, and to our allies, before we put this into law.”
The Senate’s rejection of the proposals came as the administration announced the Senate will vote on amendments to the sweeping surveillance reform bill, the USA Freedom Act, later Wednesday.
In a letter to the White House and congressional leaders, the senators said they “strongly object to the broad outlines of this bill.”
The proposed amendments would have “required a warrant from a FISA court before the government could access information about an individual,” and would have required that the government obtain a court order before the U.S. government could seek access to communications from people overseas.
The senators said the proposed changes would have made the program “more like a search warrant” than a search, with no due process protections, and would “increase the likelihood that the Government would seek information about people who are not the targets of a specific warrant.”
The senators’ letter said the amendments “would not make it easier for a foreign power to obtain information about American citizens and residents” and would result in the loss of “basic protections against government surveillance that protect the privacy of Americans.”
Senators have expressed concerns about the proposal’s implications for privacy, saying it “would weaken” privacy protections and would allow the government to conduct “snooping on Americans and foreigners.”
The White House said the amendment would have allowed for greater “interception” of phone calls, emails, and other communications.
In response, Feinstein, who is chairwoman of the Judiciary Committee, blasted the White Trump administration’s surveillance proposal.
“These amendments are a recipe for failing the American public and the Constitution.
It’s a recipe the President himself helped to create,” Feinstein said in a statement.
“We’re also deeply concerned that the President has not given us a public debate on this proposal.”
Feigen also said the Obama Justice Department and FBI have been working to find “common ground” on the amendments, which she said “would ensure that we can work to improve our surveillance programs in the future.”
The legislation would also have “authorized the National Security Agency (NSA) to conduct electronic surveillance without a warrant, and required the court order authorizing such surveillance to be obtained in writing,” Feinstein added.
In January, Feinstein told the Senate Judiciary Committee that the administration was moving “to do something that’s much more aggressive in its approach to our surveillance.”
She said the administration has already “expanded its surveillance of foreign targets” and the draft bill would “allow the government and intelligence community to engage in more indiscriminate electronic surveillance on foreign targets.”
Feisher and Leahy have called for more oversight of the NSA, and a more thorough look at the programs’ effectiveness, in an effort to make the surveillance less controversial.
“We have a very big problem in America today.
And the problem is that the surveillance powers of the President are unchecked,” Leahy said in January.
“They are unchecked by a court.
They are unchecked now by the FISA court.”
The Judiciary Committee’s opposition comes after the House voted earlier this month to send the USA Patriot Act to President Trump, who has promised to pass the bill through Congress before his term ends in 2018.
The House bill, which would have expanded the government’s ability to collect information about Americans, was defeated in the Senate last month.