US lawmakers move to block mass surveillance
Bilateral proposal seeks to add transparency, accountability
Members of the US Congress from across the political divide have banded together to introduce regulations to curtail intelligence agencies' collection of citizens' phone data, Reuters reported.
The move by Republican Representatives Bob Goodlatte and Jim Sensenbrenner and Democrats John Conyers and Jerry Nadler is intended to clamp down on activities exposed by ex-NSA contractor Edward Snowden in the summer of 2013. The spy programme under review expires on 1 June and legislators hope to tighten control of any renewal through the proposed "USA Freedom Act".
Snowden remains in Russia, where he took refuge after fleeing an NSA station in Hawaii with an unknown number of sensitive documents that he subsequently shared with newspapers in the US, UK, Germany and Hong Kong. The papers published select details of ongoing surveillance programmes by intelligence agencies in the US and UK, which led to alarm among lawmakers in the US and Europe.
US prosecutors continue to seek Snowden's extradition to answer a number of espionage charges.
If enacted, the USA Freedom Act and similar legislation introduced in the US Senate by Democrat Patrick Leahy and Republican Mike Lee, would block bulk collection, which is currently permitted by Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. The proposed laws would also put in place disclosure and accountability measures to rein in surveillance programmes.
Despite strong support from privacy advocates, the proposals are expected to meet with opposition inside Congress and the White House.