Senate intelligence panel votes to renew surveillance law

2017-10-25 13:46
The National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade. (Patrick Semansky, AP, File)

The National Security Agency campus in Fort Meade. (Patrick Semansky, AP, File)

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Washington - The Senate Intelligence Committee voted on Tuesday to re-authorise a key, widely used foreign surveillance law that is set to expire at the end of the year.

The vote was 12-3 to advance the measure to the full Senate.

There is bipartisan support for the surveillance law, which allows US intelligence agencies to collect information on foreigners abroad, but some lawmakers are seeking provisions they claim will better protect Americans' communications.

"This bill re-authorises our nation's most valuable intelligence collection authorities and ensures that the men and women of the intelligence committee and our law enforcement agencies have the tools and authorities they need to keep us safe," said chair Richard Burr, a Republican from North Carolina.

Senator Mark Warner of Virginia, the ranking Democrat on the committee, said the bill strengthens judicial and congressional oversight of the government's queries of lawfully collected US personal data.

"It is a good compromise bill that addresses privacy and civil liberties concerns while maintaining a critical tool essential for our intelligence and law enforcement professionals to protect the nation," he said.

The bill would extend the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act through the last day of 2025.

It includes a provision Republican Senator from Arkansas Tom Cotton offered to increase the maximum penalty for leaking classified information to 10 years.

"Currently, the punishment is a mere one year in prison," Cotton said. "That's a pittance compared to the threat these leaks pose to our national security and to American lives."

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