President Obama's announcement that bulk collection of telephone metadata of Americans will continue, though with as of yet undetermined changes, remains the flashpoint for reform-minded members of Congress. What they heard today wasn't enough for many.
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT), who is taking the lead among reformers, says Congress still has work to do.
"In the wake of these announcements, Congress has important tasks ahead. The President has ordered some significant changes, but more are needed. Section 215 must still be amended, legislatively, to ensure it is not used for dragnet surveillance in the future, and we must fight to create an effective, institutional advocate at the FISA court," Leahy said in a statement. "I will continue to push for meaningful legislative reforms to our surveillance laws."He's got backup: Sens. Wyden (D-OR), Mark Udall (D-CO), and Martin Heinrich (D-NM), who have been consistent and vocal critics of the bulk collection program, as well as other programs in which the NSA is overreaching what they say is its legal authority, praised the president's call to make changes to the program, but reiterated that the dragnet collection of data has to end. They also called for further reforms: to require warrants for accessing Americans emails and other communications, to close the loophole that allows "back-door searches" on data for identifying information, and for "meaningful reforms of the outdated Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court process." In an emailed statement, Sen. Jon Tester joined these reformers, saying "[t]oo many questions remain about the reach of intelligence agencies into Americans’ private lives." He is cosponsoring Sen. Leahy's legislation.
Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-WI), the House sponsor of the Leahy bill, the USA Freedom Act, is also calling for congressional action.