WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawmakers who oversee U.S. intelligence agencies are working to expand the government's spying powers to allow it to continue electronically monitoring terror suspects who travel to the U.S. if they are already under surveillance overseas by the National Security Agency.
The proposal is intended to close what lawmakers describe as a brief surveillance gap that occasionally can occur because of varying legal standards between the NSA's operations, directed principally overseas, and the FBI's traditional role tracking suspects on U.S. soil. It would require changes, they said, in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.
The effort comes at an awkward time for the NSA, which has been the focus of public unease over the breadth of its spying powers as revealed by former systems analyst Edward Snowden. Court-ordered disclosures of past U.S. court rulings have also criticized the NSA for failing to comply with its own rules for collecting U.S. emails and phone records.
On Wednesday, four senators proposed a bill that would prohibit the NSA's bulk collection of every Americans' daily phone records and open up some of the actions of the FISA court, the secret federal court that reviews government surveillance requests. The government could still obtain records of anyone suspected of terrorism or espionage and of any individual in contact with a suspected terrorist or spy.
The chairwoman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., told The Associated Press that her committee is drafting a bill that would amend the law's Section 702 provision, which authorizes targeting non-Americans outside the U.S., to allow uninterrupted spying on a suspect for "a limited period of time after the NSA learns the target has traveled to the United States, so the government may obtain a court order based on probable cause."