Current Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has revealed his opposition to the surveillance reform bill introduced by Sen. Pat Leahy (D-VT). McConnell is concerned that the bill might interfere with the U.S. ability to combat ISIS.
“Many of these fighters are familiar with America’s intelligence capabilities and many are savvy with communications: these are terrorists who know how to use encryption and they know how to change devices frequently,” McConnell said on the Senate floor. “That’s part of the reason why I’m so strongly opposed to the legislation.”
The Senate is set to take up the bill Tuesday evening.
McConnell added that he believes the bill would curtail the intelligence community’s surveillance powers and that would “end one of our nation’s critical capabilities to gather significant intelligence on terrorist threats.”
“This is the worst possible time to be tying our hands behind our backs,” McConnell said.
Leahy countered back by saying “The NSA and all our intelligence community had every single tool the Republican leader advocates for … [but] there was not one single alarm bell that rang. So let’s deal with facts not hypotheses.”
He went to say “We cannot afford to delay action on these reforms any longer, as the American people continue to demand stronger protections for their privacy,” Leahy said. “Unfortunately, some would rather use scare tactics than legislate.”
The Surveillance bill, also known as the USA Freedom Act, would reform some of the government’s surveillance operations leaked to the public by whistleblower Edward Snowden. The NSA would be prohibited from the sweeping collection of the cell phone metadata of American citizens and the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court (FISA) would also have greater transparency. Under the Freedom Act, the FISA Court would allow the appointment of a “public advocate” who would be present for all hearings. As of now, the court hears no opposition to the government’s requests for surveillance warrants.
“We cannot afford to delay action on these reforms any longer, as the American people continue to demand stronger protections for their privacy,” Leahy said. “Unfortunately, some would rather use scare tactics than legislate.”
The version the Senate is voting on has already been watered down to the point where both Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper have endorsed the bill. I wonder what’s left of it that has McConnell worried.