White House and Senate close to agreement on curbing NSA spying

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Even with the start of a month-long congressional recess only two weeks away, lawmakers in the United States Senate may soon vote on a long-awaited surveillance reform bill before heading home for the rest of summer.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vermont), the chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, told reporters this week that lawmakers in his chamber are almost ready to unveil a compromise bill that compliments the USA Freedom Act passed by the House of Representatives in May.

We are very close to finalizing an agreement that incorporates the input of the administration, the privacy community and the technology industry,” Sen. Leahy told The Washington Post ahead of an article published by the paper late Wednesday this week. “These stakeholders are coming together behind my legislation, which will give our intelligence officials clear-cut guidelines, and will let the American people know that their privacy is going to be protected.”

Following last year’s disclosure of previously secret National Security Agency documents — specifically evidence of surveillance programs waged by the NSA against the American people — lawmakers in Washington have floated alleged reform efforts but have largely fallen short of advancing them out of Congress. Then when the House approved the USA Freedom Act two months ago by a vote of 303-121, critics said that the language contained came short of guaranteeing true reform with regards to the spy programs.

But according to those working closely on the Senate version, one of the biggest concerns raised by the House bill is eliminated in the latest draft. Now if its authors can succeed in unveiling the bill ahead of the imminent recess, real NSA reform may soon become a reality.

Of particular issue with the House version of the bill has been language that opponents said would still allow the intelligence community to conduct blanketing surveillance over Americans if approved. Ahead of May’s vote, the Electronic Frontier Foundation — one of the most adamant critics of the government’s surveillance operations — said they “cannot support a bill that doesn’t achieve the goal of ending mass spying.”

In particular, we are concerned with the new definition of ‘specific selection term,’ which describes and limits who or what the NSA is allowed to surveil,” the EFF said ahead of the House vote two months ago.

The new definition is incredibly more expansive than previous definitions,” the EFF insisted, allowing the intelligence community the opportunity to conduct, in theory, “open-ended” searches against any which targets, intentional or not.

In the Washington Post this week, journalist..

Read more: http://rt.com/usa/175312-leahy-freedom-act-senate/