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Monday, June 1, 2015

US lawmakers warn proposed changes could doom spy bill

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) heads to to his officefrom the Senate Chamber at the US Capitol

High-ranking members of the US House of Representatives have warned the Senate that proposed changes to the USA Freedom Act, a bill reforming domestic surveillance, were unlikely to pass the House and might doom the contentious spy program.

The renewed tension between the two houses came a day after the Senate failed to pass legislation extending the legal authority for US spy agencies' collection of American's phone records in time to keep the program from expiring.

While a lapse of only a few days is seen as having little effect on intelligence agencies' capabilities, a legislative struggle is now looming over the Senate's proposed amendments to the Freedom Act aimed at extending surveillance powers.

The amendments include a proposal to keep spy agencies' bulk collection of Americans' telephone data in place for 12 months, double the six months included in the version of the Freedom Act the House passed overwhelmingly on May 13.

Bob Goodlatte, the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, and John Conyers, the panel's top Democrat, issued their statement while members of the Senate debated amendments to the bill proposed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell Richard Burr, the Republican chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee.

"The House is not likely to accept the changes proposed by Senator McConnell," the House lawmakers said in a statement.

The protracted debate over reforming the surveillance system, disclosed in 2013 by former spy agency contractor Edward Snowden, has tested the balance that Americans give to protecting their freedoms versus protecting their security.

"Whatever one thinks of the proposed new system, there needs to be a basic assurance that it will function as its proponents say it will," McConnell said on Monday, explaining why he sees the amendments as necessary.

If the Senate amends the Freedom Act and the House does not pass it, the senior House Republicans said the telephone data collection put in place after the Sept. 11 attacks and which lapsed at midnight on Sunday could end for good.

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Tags:  Boehner  Senate  US  surveillance  bill  





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