Senator Patrick Leahy has introduced legislation that makes major changes in surveillance programs used by the U.S. government.
As chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee, Leahy has worked on this issue for several months.
Speaking on the Senate floor, Leahy said his goal is to end the massive data searches that the National Security Agency has conducted in recent years.
“This is a debate about Americans fundamental relationship with their government,” said Leahy. “About whether our government should have the power to create massive data bases if information about its citizens or whether we are in control of our own government and not the other way around.”
Under Leahy’s bill, NSA agents would have to have specific information in order to receive a court order.
“To what extent does this massive collection of data improve our national security?” Leahy asked. “What cost to our privacy and free expression? If we pick up everything do we actually have anything?”
Leahy’s bill also creates a public advocate panel to review NSA requests for information from a special federal intelligence court.
“In other words, there won’t be just one voice that’s heard,” said Leahy. “You’ll actually have dissenting voices.”
Leahy’s proposal has strong bipartisan support on the Judiciary committee. But some members of the Intelligence Committee think the plan places too many restrictions on the federal government and they doubt that GOP leaders in the House will support the proposal.