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September 25, 2013

Senators seek to reform spying

Four high-profile senators announced plans to reform the nation’s domestic surveillance practices Wednesday, signaling a renewed focus on the issue after Syria eclipsed its place on the legislative agenda.

Senators Ron Wyden, D-Ore., Mark Udall, D-Colo., Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., and Rand Paul, R-Ky., announced joint legislation that would require extensive reforms in Foreign Intelligence law.

The legislation, which Wyden called the “most comprehensive, bipartisan intelligence reform proposal since the disclosures of last June”, would outlaw dragnet collection of email and telephone metadata, close the hotly-contested “backdoor search” provision of section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, and add a constitutional advocate to the secret FISA court.

The bill would also open avenues for American citizens to independently challenge the constitutionality of the nation’s intelligence programs, a provision that Wyden said Paul was instrumental in crafting.

Wyden and Blumenthal had previously teamed up on joint legislation to reform the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in August. Wednesday’s announcement included Wyden’s colleague on the Senate Intelligence Committee and fellow outspoken critic of the National Security Agency Mark Udall. Tea-Party member Paul’s presence is the latest example in how the issue bridges party lines.

The announcement comes the day before Wyden and Udall will hear from Intelligence community heavy-hitters at a rare open hearing held by the Senate Intelligence Committee. Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, NSA director Gen. Keith Alexander, and Deputy Attorney General James Cole will testify before Committee members on congressional reforms to the agencies’ domestic surveillance tactics.

-- Reported by Ali Watkins.


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"Suits & Sentences" is a legal affairs blog written by Michael Doyle, a reporter for McClatchy's Washington Bureau. He was a Knight Journalism Fellow at Yale Law School, where he earned a Master of Studies in Law; he also earned a Masters in Government from The Johns Hopkins University with a thesis on the Freedom of Information Act. He teaches journalism as an adjunct instructor at The George Washington University's School of Media and Public Affairs.

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