Senate pushes for NSA spying restrictions

By Alejandro Freixes, CCNN Head Writer

Senator Leahy
Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy thinks Obama didn’t go far enough in his limitations on the NSA.

Americans were surprised to discover last year that the US spy organization, the National Security Agency (NSA) was collecting data on our phone calls. Former NSA contractor, Edward Snowden had leaked to the press that the government secretly collected everything from phone records to e-mails, both at home and abroad.

International drama followed, as Snowden fled to China and then Russia, where he was granted shelter despite the US trying to get him back to stand trial for his betrayal. Then, revelations kept coming about the NSA spying on 35 countries, and even listening to German chancellor Angela Merkel’s phone.

Now, Obama announced on Friday that the NSA’s massive unchecked collection of US phone data will end.  Intelligence officials will now have to get phone data requests approved by a secret national-security court. Also, the president wants to put an end to spying on the leaders of close US-allied nations.

While privacy protection groups are at least glad to see some movement on the issue, the NSA still has a lot of authority to conduct unchecked information gathering, and the idea of a secret court making decisions behind the scenes still raises some eyebrows.

As for the intelligence community, they say that this will just slow down their ability to check for threats. Furthermore, while the NSA promises not to spy on the leaders of our close allies, they didn’t promise not to spy on their staff.

Still, Obama says this is just the beginning of major changes, as the government’s collection of data will continue being limited. That’s not good enough, however, for Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy. He says that lawmakers will keep working on restricting the NSA’s spying. “I think we have a way we can do this,” said Leahy. “I believe in going after the bad guys. But I also believe in some checks and balances, so you don’t have a government run amok.”

Republican Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky is even more skeptical. He said, “While I am encouraged the president is addressing the NSA spying program because of pressure from Congress and the American people, I am disappointed in the details. The Fourth Amendment requires an individualized warrant based on probable cause before the government can search phone records and emails. President Obama’s announced solution to the NSA spying controversy is the same unconstitutional program with a new configuration.”

Featured image courtesy of US Capitol on Flickr