U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) wants more information from the National Security Agency on how many phone records it collects in its surveillance program.
Durbin added a provision to next year’s defense spending bill that requires the NSA to give a report to Congress on the precise number of records collected, how many were reviewed by NSA employees, and all bulk collection activities. The report would also have to include the costs of the program, and how many potential terrorist attacks have been thwarted because of it.
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Durbin says that the revelation by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has started a national conversation on potential invasions of privacy by the government. “I think they overdo it,” Durbin said. “I’d like to see it change. I’ve introduced amendments to do just that."
The provision is a more modest measure compared to a recent House proposal on an appropriations bill, which would have cut off funding for the NSA’s phone records collection program. That amendment was narrowly defeated, but Durbin says it was an important vote nonetheless.
“They missed by six or seven votes eliminating a basic intelligence activity. I’m not sure that’s ever happened before," Durbin said.
Durbin says that the spending bill is the first legislation to pass a congressional committee that addresses the NSA’s monitoring program.