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Chairman Wants More Oversight of Surveillance Programs

U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy said he’s proposing legislation meant to limit the reach of federal surveillance programs.

The legislation follows the disclosure by former federal security contractor Edward Snowden of extensive data collection and analysis programs set up to combat terrorism.

Leahy said that his bill would increase the threshold for obtaining records under the Patriot Act and would require law enforcement to prove that any foreign intelligence information sought is relevant to an authorized investigation.

Government surveillance powers “deserve close scrutiny by Congress,” the Vermont Democrat, said in a statement. “The comprehensive legislation that I am introducing today will not only improve the privacy protections and accountability provisions associated with these authorities, but also strengthen oversight and transparency provisions in other parts of the USA Patriot Act.”

The bill would expand public disclosure about federal information-gathering requests known as national security letters.

The bill is co-sponsored by Utah Republican Mike Lee, Colorado Democrat Mark Udall, Oregon Democrat Ron Wyden, Connecticut Democrat Richard Blumenthal and Montana Democrat Jon Tester.

“This legislation will narrow surveillance authorities where appropriate and help provide the necessary accountability to ensure that Americans’ constitutional rights are respected,” Lee said in a statement.

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