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New bill proposed to limit NSA phone data collection

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Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) is set to introduce a new Senate bill which would curb the ability of the government and NSA to collect phone and internet data in bulk and increase transparency of such government programs.

“If enacted,” said Leahy according to Reuters, “this bill would represent the most significant reform of government surveillance authorities since Congress passed the USA Patriot Act 13 years ago.”

The bill is already being supported by the White House and is reportedly more aggressive than a similar bill passed in May.

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The May bill was significantly altered before being heard on the Senate floor, and it has been argued the changes could allow government agents to search a broad scope of records, such as by ZIP code, to pull up data.  Sen. Leahy’s bill would prevent broad searches and require agents to use very specific terms in order to search records.

National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in an email sent Monday, “Chairman Leahy has done remarkable work reflecting the equities of intelligence professionals while crafting privacy enhancements, and these efforts have yielded significant progress on issues vital to those stakeholders.”

The Hill also reports the bill would require the agencies to give “the number of people caught up in its searches, declare how many of them were Americans and provides more ways for tech companies to report the number of government requests for information they receive.”

Leahy’s bill would also create a panel of special civil liberties advocates and assign them to oversee secretive court intelligence operations, where the advocates would represent the public when the court makes a ruling.

While this is a big step in what many privacy advocates consider the right direction, Leahy said there was still a lot of work to do even if the bill passed.  “I’d like to get most of what we need,” said Leahy, “then work on the rest.”

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