A congressional panel has approved a major intelligence reform bill co-authored by a Wisconsin Republican. The House Judiciary Committee’s 25-2 vote Thursday to approve the USA Freedom Act sets the state for floor debate. Wisconsin GOP Representative Jim Sensenbrenner, a co-author the bill and original author of the USA Patriot Act, said the measure ends bulk collection of data, strengthens protections for civil liberties, increases transparency, and prevents government overreach, while also protecting national security.
“The bill ends bulk collection, it ends secret law,” Sensenbrenner said, according to The Hill. “It increases the transparency of our intelligence community and it does all this without compromising national security.”
Congress has until June 1 to reauthorize three expiring portions of the Patriot Act, including authorizing the National Security Agency to collect bulk records on millions of people’s phone calls. The NSA program collects “metadata” — such as the numbers involved in a phone call and when it occurred — not actual content.
The USA Freedom Act would end the government’s ability to collect those records, and instead force agents to demand specific information from private companies. It would also add some new transparency provisions and place a new expert panel on the shadowy Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court.