Budget bill riders press NSA for accountability

Jan. 16, 2014 at 12:46 AM
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WASHINGTON, Jan. 16 (UPI) -- The giant U.S. budget bill awaiting Senate OK includes riders that seek to rein in the National Security Agency's bulk data collection, a bill review indicates.

One of the two riders in the omnibus $1.1 trillion budget bill passed by the House Wednesday directs the surveillance agency to disclose "the number of records acquired by the NSA as part of its bulk telephone metadata program" over five years and to provide the data to the House and Senate judiciary committees in a report within 90 days.

"This report shall provide, to the greatest extent possible, an estimate of the number of records of United States citizens that have been acquired by NSA as part of the bulk telephone metadata program and the number of such records that have been reviewed by NSA personnel in response to a query," says the rider, as cited by Britain's Guardian newspaper.

It is also calls for a report explaining how helpful the metadata collection has actually been in foiling terror plots. NSA critics and President Obama's own advisory panel say the agency has greatly exaggerated the value.

This report should be "unclassified to the greatest extent possible, and with a classified annex if necessary, listing terrorist activities that were disrupted, in whole or in part, with the aid of information obtained through NSA's telephone metadata program and whether this information could have been promptly obtained by other means," the rider says.

A separate rider bars the agency from using congressional funding to target U.S. citizens for domestic surveillance under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said he was not aware of the riders when asked about them.

He told reporters separately Wednesday the NSA was "not interested in the personal information about ordinary Americans."

House and Senate leaders and the NSA had no immediate comment on the budget riders.

Obama is scheduled to announce Friday what recommendations he is accepting from the advisory panel on changing NSA practices.

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